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Justin Gaethje trashes ref Mike Beltran for potential $1 million mistake at UFC 268

It’s all love between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler after their FOTY war at UFC 268. But, Justin has some issues with the ref that he’d like to get off his chest.

UFC 268: Gaethje v Chandler Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Justin Gaethje put on quite the performance at UFC 268, giving Michael Chandler quite the beating en route to a unanimous decision win that puts him right on the edge of a Lightweight title shot (watch the highlights here). It was a back-and-forth war that saw Chandler throw everything and the kitchen sink at Gaethje, only for Justin to walk through it all with barely a wobble.

But, just because Gaethje can eat some big punches doesn’t mean he’s okay with taking them unnecessarily. And as far as Gaethje is concerned, one big punch he took immediately after an eye poke from Chandler in the second round definitely fell under that category. He blames referee Mike Beltran for not stepping in fast enough to avert the blow, and then not giving him time to recover from the poke, either.

“[The ref] says timeout from like four feet away and does absolutely nothing to get in between the action and allows [Chandler] to punch me,” Gaethje said on the Anik and Florian podcast.

“If you’re going to break action, you’ve got to put your body in there,” he continued (via MMA Fighting). “If you’re going to get hit, that needs to be OK. That was a big punch. What if that would have knocked me out? Those can change the whole direction of a fight. It’s just crazy to me that it wasn’t a big issue, because for me it was a huge issue. That’s $1 million, if I lose, that’s so much money off of my table.”

Gaethje then dug more into Beltran starting the fight back up without giving him time to recover, something that he saw as a communication mishap after Beltran asked him if he was okay.

“In my mind, I think he’s referencing the punch that just occurred,” Gaethje said. “And so I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m good,’ because as a fighter, you never say you’re not good to continue. So he was like, ‘OK, fight!’ I was like, ‘No, I need my time. He poked me in the eye.’ And he looks directly at me and he says, ‘You said you’re good, fight.’ And he never looked at my eye. He didn’t even take one second to see if I was affected.”

“I just can’t understand how it happened, why it happened, or what the f—k happened.”

Gaethje exchanged some angry words with Beltran after the end of the round and says they talked more backstage after the fight, where the referee wasn’t willing to admit he messed up.

“This is why I’m more upset about it is because he tried to justify it,” Gaethje said. “If you would have just accepted that, he f—ked up, then at least I have a picture of why it happened and how it will never happened again. We need to learn from that.”

Gaethje ain’t wrong: Beltran definitely should have assessed the eye poke and given him time to recover. The extra punch ... well, things happen so fast in the cage and it’s up to the fighter to protect themselves at all times. But, given the circumstances, it just makes it all the more surprising that a few more seconds weren’t spent making sure Gaethje was good to continue.

For complete UFC 268 results and coverage click here.

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