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‘He’s not Khabib’ - UFC 291’s Justin Gaethje eyes Islam Makhachev fight with BMF win (with an Abu Dhabi catch)

“The Highlight” explains the reason(s) there was a “zero percent chance” he’d fight Islam Makhachev at UFC 294 with a win over “The Diamond” at UFC 291.

UFC 254: Press Conference Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Justin Gaethje rematches Dustin Poirier for the “Baddest Motherf—ker (BMF)” belt at UFC 291 this weekend (Sat., July 29, 2023) inside Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah; however, “The Highlight” has his sights firmly set on the real prize: UFC’s Lightweight title currently held by Islam Makhachev.

Makhachev is set to face Charles Oliveira at UFC 294 on Oct. 21, 2023, in Abu Dhabi, and many people were surprised that UFC wouldn’t wait for Gaethje vs. Poirier to fight in Salt Lake City before locking in “Do Bronx” as Makhachev’s next challenger for the 155-pound strap. That may be because neither Poirier nor Gaethje were willing to commit to a 13-week turnaround to be ready in time for a fight in United Arab Emirates.

Gaethje certainly made it clear he wouldn’t do it in a new interview with SHAK MMA.

“I’d say there’d be a zero percent chance,” Gaethje said about fighting Poirier and then immediately fighting Makhachev in Abu Dhabi. “UFC isn’t going to protect you, it’s just the name of the game. You gotta take time between fights, not just the fights but the training camps that we go through.

“I just been through 12 weeks of training, extremely hard six days a week, and your body gets broken down,” Gaethje continued. “And it’s something you really got to focus on is understanding that you’ve got to go through a healing process. Every single time you step in there.

“The physical aspect, but I would say even the mental aspect, the mental aspect is a traumatic life experience every time you step in there,” Gaethje added. “And you really got to take some time to heal every time you do that.”

Gaethje is prepared to sit and wait his turn if he wins against Poirier in “City of the Saints.”

“It’s UFC title or bust,” he said. “[Poirier] is No. 2 and I’m No. 3. If Volkanovski fights in October then I’d be a fool to want to fight any other fight. I can’t really see a scenario where I’d want to fight and defend this [BMF] belt before I get my chance at the world title.”

As for the people who claim Makhachev is going to handle Gaethje the same way Khabib Nurmagomedov handled “The Highlight” when they fought in Oct. 2020?

“I know for a fact he’s not Khabib,” Gaethje said. “And I want to go in there and prove that.”

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 291 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+/ABC at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 291: “Poirier vs. Gaethje 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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