Justin Gaethje has undoubtedly been one of the better lightweight fighters in MMA, dare say one of the greatest ever.
Most UFC fans that had not been exposed to Gaethje prior to his start in the UFC, are probably not educated on just how much success he’s had in the sport, and probably feel like he’s someone who came out of nowhere. Allow me to educate you.
Before joining the UFC last year, Gaethje was mostly known for being apart of the now defunct World Series of Fighting as their lightweight champion, and putting on some of the most memorable performances in the organization.
During his time in WSOF, Gaethje became a household name for his in-your-face, forward pressure style would force his opponents to deviate from their original technical strategies, and engage in all out slug fest, which he would end up winning 99% of the time thus earning him the moniker “The Highlight”.
Now finally fighting in the UFC, Gaethje has had the chance to put his decorated skills to the ultimate test against world class competition, and has made a hell of an impression in the process.
Gaethje’s first taste of this was in his debut against gritty contender Michael “Menace” Johnson. For most of the bout, Johnson was getting the better of Gaethje until a miraculous comeback by the former WSOF champion led to an impressive victory and him receiving his first of three FOTN (Fight of the Night) bonuses with the company.
His two most recent bouts, have been just as spectacular as he’s faced former UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez, and current lightweight title contender Dustin “The Diamond Poirier, both which have been mentioned as FOTY (Fight of the Year) candidates, but at the same time, resulted in losses.
Gathje now looks ahead to this Saturday night on FS1 for a chance at redemption, as he’ll face Ultimate Fighter vet James Vick in the main event as the UFC travels to Lincoln, Nebraska.
For Gaethje, this fight is not only an important one, but to a certain extent a must win in terms of him getting to chase championship gold.
After being undefeated for most of his MMA career in World Series of Fighting, then arriving in the UFC an suffering two defeats in a row, another loss Saturday night would necessarily spell the end of his UFC career thanks to his previous bonuses he’s gotten, it could however, be the demise of his MMA career generally.
Talking with MMANytt most recently, Gaethje expressed while it’s great to receive high praise for putting entertaining fights, he’s in this sport for one purpose, to be a world champion, once that is no longer the objective, Gaethje promised he would call it a career.
“100-percent. When that’s not my goal, I will retire,” Gaethje said. “I want to be the best. I want to be the best in the world.”
Gaethje says the losses against Alvarez and Poirier were learning experiences for him and helped him get adjusted to both the pressure and challenge of competing on MMA’s biggest stage.
“The UFC, they are the hype machine, fighting on a UFC card there is nothing like it,” Gaethje said. “Experience is a hell of a trait to have and now with some experience under my belt, it will do a lot of things for me.
“I’m going to be more comfortable in a sense and I’m going to be more vigilant in not getting comfortable in the fight. That comes with experience so yeah, I’m excited to out there and do it again.”
And the former WSOF lightweight champion will need to draw from that experience as much as possible, especially for an even stiffer of a test as James Vick, who himself has been another one of the UFC’s red hot lightweight contenders as of late.
With a 9-1 record in the UFC, including wins in last four fights, James Vick isn’t only a tough obstacle for Gaethje inside the octagon, he’s also been very outspoken against him as well, even going so far as referring to Gaethje as “The Homer Simpson of MMA” and claiming he’s been exposed since coming to the UFC.
Gaethje responded to Vick that come Saturday night, he will get to witness who the real world class fighter is.
“If you watch the fights, you have to understand how close either one of us were to getting the ‘W’ and finishing that fight,” Gaethje said. “For James Vick to sit here and say I’m a ‘B’ league fighter and I don’t deserve the accolades that I’m getting — the bonuses, the main events — they guy just doesn’t get it.
“I’m painting a pretty clear picture of what pure effort can achieve in this sport and if you don’t want to pay attention, that’s not my problem.”
Will Justin Gaethje rebound from his recent losses and defeat James Vick Saturday night at UFC Lincoln?