Technically, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight division currently has a champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, even though he retired last year. And even though UFC President, Dana White, is trying to convince him to return for one more fight, “The Eagle” has no plans to compete again inside the Octagon.
Still, the promotion hasn’t officially vacated the title, leaving a lot of worthy contenders unhappy. Among them is Justin Gaethje, who says the reason the division is in its current confused state is because White screwed Dustin Poirier and Tony Ferguson by favoring Michael Chandler.
“The reason why this is happening with Poirier is because Dana White used, he tried to, he did, he (explicit) Tony (Ferguson) and Dustin,” Gaethje told MMA Junkie. “He said (explicit) you guys, I’m going to take Chandler, and he’s going to be the back up for this title fight. That all happened four months ago. We are humans, we have principles, we have morals, and that’s what that is. That’s why Dustin Poirier is saying [he won’t fight Chandler]. Well, I would assume. I don’t talk to the guy.”
Indeed, Chandler was pegged as a back up for the Nurmagomedov versus Gaethje fight at UFC 254. In the end, his services weren’t needed. Eventually, Chandler made his UFC debut at UFC 257, knocking out Dan Hooker in the first round. The win set him up at the top of the division, earning him the No. 4 ranking and closer to a shot at the title.
Poirier, meanwhile, knocked out Conor McGregor at UFC 257 (see it), leading him to believe that he is the uncrowned champion, all while saying he has no interest in fighting Chandler for the possible vacant strap.
“He didn’t just (explicit) Dustin Poirier, He didn’t just (explicit) on Tony Ferguson. He (explicit) on every single (explicit) fighter that wants to do it right and wants integrity to the sport, and that’s why Dustin Poirier is talking like he is.”
Poirier and Ferguson were in talks to fight last year, but the bout eventually went up in smoke. According to Gaethje’s theory, the promotion also botched that possible scrap, leading to some unhappiness from both camps.
“That’s just the truth. You remember how upset Tony and Dustin were when they didn’t put that fight together [at UFC 256]. They were probably $50,000 or $100,000 off one of their contracts, and they didn’t put the contract together and those guys were ready to fight.
“They put it in the public, and that (explicit) is not right,” he continued. “I don’t like that as a fighter. I don’t like that as an employee. Well, I’m no (explicit) employee but being somebody that offers my services to the company. That’s not cool. You don’t want to see that. … I just know that’s why Dustin is saying what he’s saying, and that’s why he won’t fight Chandler for the title right now because they did that (explicit) in October. I don’t know it, but I’m pretty sure.”
Still, Gaethje says he is not at odds with the promotion, he’s just simply calling it like he sees it.