Former UFC lightweight title challenger Justin Gaethje is scheduled to fight Michael Chandler at UFC 268 on Nov. 6 in New York City, but that wasn’t his first choice.
According to Gaethje, he tried lobbying for a fight with former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway before settling on a 155-pound clash with Chandler. There were originally some issues involving the booking of Gaethje vs. Chandler so “Highlight” was simply trying to stay busy and fight one of the best guys on the roster.
“Max is probably my favorite fighter to watch so I honestly don’t want to fight the guy ever,” Gaethje told ESPN. “But I need to put myself in the title picture and if he jumps weight classes, I wasn’t sure if with Brian Ortega vs. Volkanovski being tied up with The Ultimate Fighter, I thought maybe he might want to come up to lightweight and try his hand, with Khabib being gone, at the lightweight title. That was an option at the time but didn’t work out.”
Holloway, who is coming off a masterful performance against Calvin Kattar this past January, is currently trying to earn back the UFC featherweight title he lost to current champion Alexander Volkanovski in 2019 and then again in 2020. “Blessed” may not even have to win another fight before locking down another shot at the 145-pound crown, but he has long talked about a jump up in weight and a run at the lightweight strap.
Remember, Holloway temporarily moved up to 155 pounds back at UFC 236 in 2019 to meet Dustin Poirier for the interim title. Poirier ended up winning, but Holloway looked good and more than capable of being a legit contender at a higher weight class. That was the last time we saw him compete in the UFC’s lightweight division.
For now, Gaethje will fight Chandler at UFC 268 and try to lock down his second UFC lightweight title shot. As for Holloway, he may end up fighting fellow featherweight contender Yair Rodriguez later this year and try to cement his shot at the winner of Volkanovski vs. Brian Ortega. Maybe “Highlight” and “Blessed” can set a different date aside for a future meeting of UFC fan favorites.