Coming back from tough losses is nothing new for Justin Gaethje.
Gaethje was in attendance at UFC 278 this past Summer (Aug. 20, 2022) in Salt Lake City, Utah, to support his good friend and teammate, Kamaru Usman. Unfortunately for the talented duo of Trevor Whittman disciples, Usman left the arena without his UFC Welterweight title.
Leon Edwards scored a massive late comeback head kick knockout (watch highlights) with a minute left in a largely-dominant fight from Usman. The loss is only the second in “The Nigerian Nightmare’s” great career and his first by knockout. Having been on the receiving end of similar setbacks in his career, Gaethje sees a difference between himself and Usman.
“He’s No. 1 pound-for-pound, there’s no giving him my advice,” Gaethje told MMA Mania. “I’m there as a friend, as a teammate, and my job is to remind him that when we were kids we got caught on our backs and now we get caught on our chins. It’s the same game.
“When we got caught on our back at six years old, it was just as devastating as getting caught on our chin now because we knew nothing then,” he continued. “That was our life, that was everything then. We’ve been devastated multiple times in our lives. You don’t get to this spot with 100 percent success through your whole life. He has been pushed, he has been broken before — he’s broken himself. So, there’s nothing to tell him other than to remind him that we’ve been here. This is what we do. This is who we are, this is what we’ve done since day one.”
Between the two, all of Gaethje and Usman’s losses have come via finish. If his teammate is any indicator of how one can learn from losses, a talent as high-level as Usman should be more than fine with the pressure of being champion off his back.
Usman, 35, is expected to get a trilogy with Edwards next, but nothing has come to fruition just yet. Gaethje is also targeting a rebound victory his next time out, suffering a first round rear-naked choke submission loss to Charles Oliveira in April 2022. In his perfect world, Dustin Poirier sets up a rematch with Gaethje after a UFC 281 win over Michael Chandler on Nov. 12, 2022.
“He’s the best in the world and again, we both understand it’s not the beginning,” Gaethje said. “It’s not even the middle anymore. It’s not the end, but we’re on the downhill of our careers, there’s no doubt about that. I don’t want to fight until I’m 40, he doesn’t want to fight until he’s 40, and I don’t want him to.
“He’s in a great spot,” he continued. “He’s gonna come back, maybe fight this guy in London, he’s better than him and he should win. The reason why were all such fans of this sport is because of the unpredictability at any given moment. And when you’re on the other side of what he just experienced, best feeling in the world. That’s what we’re all there for. He has the chance to go out there and get that feeling back.”