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Chael Sonnen: Justin Gaethje ‘ready to go’ and fight Islam Makhachev at UFC 294

UFC may have a little regret over how it booked UFC 294’s main event after Justin Gaethje ripped through Dustin Poirier in Salt Lake City, says Chael P. Sonnen.

The fuzzy Lightweight title picture just got more interesting after Justin Gaethje knocked out Dustin Poirier with a headkick at UFC 291 last night (Sat., July 29, 2023) in Salt Lake City, Utah (watch highlights).

The bout, which was expected to be a brutal back-and-forth war, ended suddenly in the second round when Gaethje copied Leon Edwards by firing a right punch and then sneaking a right kick immediately behind it. It landed with thunderous force, putting Poirier down and earning Gaethje the win just six minutes into their “BMF” title fight.

The win was so impressive that Chael Sonnen wants UFC to go back and switch things up for Lightweight champion Islam Makhachev’s next fight at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi. UFC recently announced that Makhachev would rematch Charles Oliveira at the big United Arab Emirates show.

But, according to Sonnen, Oliveira isn’t even that committed to the bout.

“I’m not positive that Charles Oliveira wants to do that fight,” Sonnen said during ESPN’s post-fight show. “I don’t want to be a spoiler, but I read his Twitter account, he’s saying he wants to fight Conor McGregor next. And the only reason I bring that to you: we at minimum have a backup. We thought that Justin Gaethje or [Dustin] Poirier, whoever came out would be the No. 1 contender. We also thought they’d be hurt. We thought this was going to be a bludgeon. We thought they were gonna be swapping stories in the hospital.

“This was a surprise finish, he’s surprisingly fresh, I’m talking about Gaethje,” Sonnen concluded.

“I think he’s ready to go in — the Charles Oliveira vs. [Islam] Makhachev fight was made because nobody thought — whoever won this fight was not going to make a quick turn to go back,” fellow analyst Anthony Smith added. “And everyone knows that Gaethje does not like short notice fights, he likes a lot of time to prepare, he likes a lot of rest. I think that if the matchmakers had known this would possibly be the result, they may have waited a little bit longer to match that Oliveira fight.”

Leading into UFC 291, Gaethje did say there was a “zero percent chance” he’d turn around quickly after the Poirier fight to take on “Do Bronx” in Abu Dhabi. But, at UFC 291’s post-fight press conference, he sounded less against the idea of staying ready, if the right amount of money was in play.

“I’d want to go watch it, yeah,” he said when asked about Makhachev vs. Oliveira. “I don’t think I’d want to be a backup. Unless they pay me a s— ton of money, then maybe ... maybe.”

For complete UFC 291 results, coverage and highlights click HERE.

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