The upcoming matchup between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler may be in jeopardy, but that isn’t stopping the two lightweights from adding fuel to their growing rivalry.
Gaethje and Chandler were originally expected to meet at UFC 268 this November in New York City, but recent COVID-19 mandates in the state of New York may stop that matchup from happening. That’s because Chandler isn’t expecting to be vaccinated by the time he meets “Highlight” at UFC 268. It is unknown at this time if the matchup will go on as planned or if the promotion will switch the 155-pound fight to another event.
Either way, the rivalry between Gaethje and Chandler is really beginning to gain steam. Chandler was in attendance to co-host UFC 265’s weigh-in show on Friday and Gaethje joined on a video call. The coverage was brief, but Gaethje made his intentions clear when speaking with the former Bellator MMA champion.
Justin Gaethje: It'll be fun to punch you in the face.— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) August 6, 2021
Michael Chandler: You know, I think that'll be fun too.
This exchange between @Justin_Gaethje and @MikeChandlerMMA (via @ufc) pic.twitter.com/wz2stRMylW
“I got nothing mean to say,” said Gaethje. “We do mean things to each other one night a year. It’s been a while since I fought someone I didn’t like. For some reason you’re a little different. I think it was James Vick, the last guy I fought that I didn’t like. It’ll be fun to punch you in the face.”
Gaethje, who hasn’t competed since a submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov back in Oct. 2020, is hoping to launch himself right back into contention with a win over Chandler. Unfortunately, New York doesn’t seem to be a likely landing spot for the lightweight showdown and “Highlight” is not happy.
“I don’t think it’ll be in New York City,” Gaethje said. “I think it’ll be in probably Texas or something, somewhere way sweeter than New York City. New York City sucks. Anywhere outside of that place, and we’ll be good to go.”
It’s rare that we see Gaethje show so much emotion before a fight, but Chandler seems to be rubbing him the wrong way. The lightweight pairing should produce fireworks whenever they actually lock horns and Gaethje is going to be happy to punch Chandler in the face.
“I’m excited to fight someone I don’t like,” Gaethje said. “It’s been a while. I have no reason not to like you. Something about your face just makes me want to punch it.”