Justin Gaethje will be the only fighter eligible to win the undisputed UFC lightweight title later tonight (Sat., May 7, 2022) at UFC 274 live on ESPN+ PPV from inside Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona, after Charles Oliveira missed weight and was stripped of the belt on Friday.
While Gaethje has a steep test in front of him as he tries to end Oliveira’s 10-fight win streak this is what “Highlight” has asked for all along. Gaethje wants to fight the best in the world en route to claiming the UFC lightweight title. He came up short in his first title shot against former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 back in 2020, but he’ll have another chance tonight in his home state of Arizona.
If Gaethje is able to defeat Oliveira tonight at UFC 274 and claim the undisputed title he will become a marked man entering the second half of 2022. With the most stacked division in MMA nipping at his heels Gaethje would have to ward off the likes of top contenders Islam Makhachev, Dustin Poirier, Beneil Dariush, and Michael Chandler if he’s able to beat Tony Ferguson at UFC 274. Not to mention former UFC lightweight champion and MMA cash cow Conor McGregor, who is gearing up for a return to action later this year.
While McGregor hasn’t won a fight in the 155-pound division since defeating Eddie Alvarez back at UFC 205 to claim the belt he’s always floating around as a possible title challenger. As the most popular fighter in the sport today McGregor has the power to call most of his shots. Gaethje would certainly be in the driver’s seat if he won the title this weekend, but he’s already opening up to the idea of fighting “Notorious” and trying to end his UFC run for good.
“At the end of the day, after I win this fight there’s two people that are next in line,” said Gaethje during a recent appearance on the “FULL SEND PODCAST.” “There’s Beneil Dariush and (Islam) Makhachev and they need to fight each other. If Conor McGregor’s there, then I think he’s just as rightfully available as those two because they need to fight. So I say either everybody deserves it, or nobody deserves it right now. Someone needs to stand out and yeah, whoever. I want that opportunity to take him away from this sport forever.”
Of course, Gaethje is a company man. He has fought everyone the UFC has thrown in front of him since making his Octagon debut back in 2017 and that won’t change if he becomes champion. “Highlight” knows he’ll carry a big target on his back if he walks away with the UFC lightweight strap this weekend in Phoenix. That could mean a potential clash with McGregor or one of the many contenders ready to scrap at 155 pounds.
“The best part: When you’re the champion, the target’s on your back,” Gaethje said. “I’m not going to be looking back. At the end of the day, I will be the champ and whoever’s next will be next. I just gotta keep preparing myself, keep eating correctly, keep isolating myself, take away all distractions, and then I’ll be done one of these days.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 274 fight card right HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches at 5:30 p.m. ET, followed by the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
For more news and notes on UFC 274 be sure to visit our comprehensive event archive right here. For the updated, revised, and finalized “Oliveira vs. Gaethje” fight card and ESPN+ PPV lineup click here.