Justin Gaethje: What next for UFC’s new interim lightweight champion?
Will he face Khabib in a unification bout?
Justin Gaethje upset the odds at UFC 249 to beat Tony Ferguson with a sensational hard-hitting display.
Ferguson couldn’t cope with the Highlight’s strikes, with the referee calling the fight in the fifth round.
Gaethje ended Ferguson’s 12-match winning streak to become UFC’s interim lightweight champion. But where does he go from here? We’ve outlined the next steps he could take.
Take on Khabib for the undisputed lightweight title
Having beaten Ferguson, Gaethje is now next in line to take on Khabib Nurmagomedov for the chance to become UFC’s undisputed lightweight champion.
It will be the biggest test of the 31-year-old’s career to date. Khabib is undefeated with a 28-0 record. He may well be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport and very few opponents have even begun to cope with his ferocious style.
But if the Arizona-born fighter can survive the initial onslaught, we could be in for an incredible match.
Gaethje is a real showman. His wrestling background, combined with his aggressive approach, makes him thrilling to watch in the Octagon. Five of his seven UFC bouts have been the Fight of the Night. Gaethje himself also has four Performance of the Night awards too.
Style doesn’t necessarily win titles though. And the interim champ sounds like he’s ready for the challenge that Khabib would pose.
Speaking after beating Ferguson, he said: “He [Khabib] is 28-0 and there’s no other challenge I want right now. I want to fight him.”
Next up: The Notorious?
If Gaethje can become the first man to defeat Khabib and become the undisputed champion, it could set up a huge showdown with Conor McGregor.
There had been speculation that they would meet in McGregor’s comeback fight last year. That didn’t come to pass, but Gaethje did call McGregor a “coward” for chasing what he believed were easy fights. Will those words come back to haunt him?
McGregor has recently talked up the possibility of a third fight with Nate Diaz. Whatever he does, it’s sure to be a big money-spinner.
The former featherweight and lightweight champion may not be the force he once was, but he’s still arguably the biggest draw in the sport.
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication