Justin Gaethje is the odd man out in the UFC’s stacked lightweight division. The perennial contender was expecting a matchup with Michael Chandler before the promotion decided to go a different direction.
Earlier this week UFC booked a lightweight title fight between Chandler and Charles Oliveira for UFC 262 on May 15th in Houston following the official retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov. Oliveira, who has won his last eight trips to the Octagon, was an obvious choice to fight for the vacant belt. Chandler, on the other hand, only has one UFC win under his belt.
Regardless, UFC decided to book Oliveira vs. Chandler for the vacant strap later this spring. Not only is it a fight that will redefine the best division in MMA but it’s also a decision that leaves Gaethje on the outside looking in.
On Friday night, Gaethje took to social media to reveal he was training for a fight with Chandler on May 15th. “Highlight” was expecting to sign a bout agreement in the coming days before learning UFC had granted Oliveira the matchup instead.
I woke up yesterday to train for a matchup with Chandler on May 15th expecting a bout agreement any moment. Today that is not the case, I don’t know what I do yet but I like this feeling. It was a good day at sparring practice.— Justin Gaethje (@Justin_Gaethje) March 20, 2021
“I woke up yesterday to train for a matchup with Chandler on May 15th expecting a bout agreement any moment. Today that is not the case, I don’t know what I do yet but I like this feeling. It was a good day at sparring practice.”
Surprisingly, Gaethje seems to be in pretty good spirits despite losing out on a bout with Chandler. It should be noted that the potential Gaethje vs. Chandler matchup was never officially linked to the lightweight title. Once Khabib announced he was stepping away from MMA for good that’s when UFC reversed course and brought Oliveira into the mix.
At this point, we really don’t know who Gaethje is going to fight next. Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor seem to be holding out for a trilogy bout. Tony Ferguson, who Gaethje defeated last year, is scheduled to fight red-hot contender Beneil Dariush at UFC 262. That leaves Rafael dos Anjos and Islam Makhachev as the only suitable options for Gaethje, but those guys keep pushing for their own matchup.
Of course, UFC could always throw Gaethje a bone and get a deal done for a fight with Nate Diaz. The two have already been linked in the past and it seems like the most exciting matchup to make, but we all know how difficult it is to get Diaz to sign the dotted line.
What do you think, fight fans? Who does Gaethje fight next?