Justin Gaethje is must-see television. The fact he stands out in one of MMA’s most talent-rich divisions in history is testament to that.
The Colorado fighter rebounded to two losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier – the first defeats of his MMA career – by knocking out James Vick and Edson Barboza in the first round.
Now, as he plans to continue his ascent up the UFC lightweight rankings to earn a title shot, the former WSOF lightweight champion wants Conor McGregor next. And if he can’t fight the Dubliner, he feels McGregor should be removed from the UFC rankings.
“S**t, man, the peak of my career. I’m ranked No. 5 right now,” Gaethje told ESPN. “There are four guys and the champion in front of me. I’m looking for one of those guys, and I’m looking for a big fight this summer. I don’t want to fight guys ranked behind me. I’ve got two knockouts in a row. James Vick ranked behind me. I feel I deserve someone in front of me.
“Looking at the landscape, Conor McGregor is No. 3 right now. If it’s not him, there’s not an open fight right now. So, that’s the fight I want. He’s No. 3. If he’s not going to fight, take him out of the rankings. I’d be cool with that, too, and we can move on from there.”
McGregor hasn’t competed inside the Octagon since his submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov last October. As it stands, it appears McGregor and the UFC brass are at a stalemate and no fight announcement for “Notorious” seems forthcoming.
As Gaethje doesn’t want to fight someone ranked below his fifth berth, “The Highlight” is limited in his options. What’s worse is he’s not convinced McGregor will want to fight again.
But Gaethje made his intentions very clear if McGregor is to return to the cage, emphatically putting his hat in the ring as his next opponent.
“I don’t know, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s in the rankings so he should be available. I’m just sitting in my house in Colorado. I have no idea what the hell is going on with him. But he’s No. 3. He’s the only guy ranked ahead of me that doesn’t have a fight. He needs a fight to get back to the title shot. That’s me.
“I don’t know what else to say about it. Unless he just does not want to fight me, if he wants to be that picky about it. I can’t control that. I’ll worry about things I can control. But I would definitely love to f**k him up.
“Every time I get a chance to f**k someone up who talks a lot of s**t, it makes it more fun for me.”