Justin Gaethje's patience for his shot at Islam Makhachev is unwavering.



Justin Gaethje’s patience for his shot at Islam Makhachev is unwavering.

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Justin Gaethje is determined to focus on one thing in the lightweight division: securing a title shot. The former UFC interim lightweight champion and BMF titleholder recently shared with ESPN his unwavering commitment to waiting for his opportunity to face the current titleholder, Islam Makhachev.

Gaethje expressed his dilemma, stating, “Who do I fight? There’s no one. I did what I had to do… I don’t know what else I need to do.”

Originally, Charles Oliveira, the former UFC lightweight champion, was scheduled to challenge Makhachev at UFC 294. However, Oliveira had to withdraw due to a pre-fight cut, and Alexander Volkanovski stepped in on short notice, only to be knocked out by Makhachev in the first round.

UFC CEO Dana White suggested that Oliveira remains the likely next contender for Makhachev. This potential matchup may need to happen before Makhachev begins observing Ramadan on March 10, 2024. Gaethje, demonstrating his commitment, expressed his willingness to wait for the title shot even if Makhachev doesn’t fight again until the fall.

Gaethje stated, “If they want to put Oliveira in there, then I fight him in September [or next October]… I have no issues waiting. Again, as I get older, I get to understand that from now until the time I’m gonna fight him, I’m gonna be building strength, working on my cardio, and refining my skills. So, I’ll take as much time as they give me and I’ll be that much more ready.”

ESPN’s lightweight rankings place Makhachev at the top, with Oliveira in second place and Gaethje in third.

Gaethje, with a record of 25-4, has secured two consecutive victories, including a head-kick knockout of Dustin Poirier to claim the BMF title at UFC 291 in July. The Arizona native, who trains in Colorado, has only suffered two losses since 2018, both in title fights: one to Oliveira and another to Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makhachev’s longtime training partner. Gaethje, aged 34, holds the record for the most fight-night bonuses per fight in UFC history, with 12 bonuses in 12 fights.

Gaethje also expressed his admiration for Makhachev’s knockout victory over Volkanovski, the UFC featherweight champion, particularly considering Makhachev’s background in wrestling and grappling. Gaethje humorously remarked, “I think he’s out here copying my moves… He’s obviously watching me, so, yeah. It’s good, man. I’m excited to fight him. Before the [Volkanovski] fight, I said he wasn’t Khabib, but I guess I’m just gonna have to find out, because I’m not sure.”




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