Just one fight into his UFC career, Justin Gaethje‘s stock is already sky-high.
The Colorado-based lightweight produced a thrilling TKO over Michael Johnson in his promotional debut this summer.
Immediately after that, he accepted a coaching gig on The Ultimate Fighter reality series, which debuted this week. He’s expected to face opposing coach (and former UFC champion) Eddie Alvarez later this year.
Could all roads lead to current champion Conor McGregor, who is coming off last weekend’s loss to Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match? Gaethje believes so.
“[McGregor] admitted it, that as soon as Floyd put his hands up and started putting his head in his chest, he was a fish out of water,” Gaethje told ESPN’s Five Rounds podcast. “That’s the way I fight. So, I’m sure me and him, we kind of have each other’s Kryptonite styles. Hopefully one day we can tussle.”
Gaethje (18-0), a former WSOF champion, quickly added McGregor deserves time off after his lucrative bout against Mayweather. He’s also focused on Alvarez (28-5) for now, one of the most accomplished 155-pounders of all time.
That said, Gaethje knows there are high-profile fights littered across the division for someone with his style, including McGregor.
One interesting angle of that potential matchup is McGregor’s endurance, which he’s admitted has hindered him at times. Gaethje, on the other hand, has a reputation for pushing the pace in his fights and willing himself through the trenches.
“We all get there, to where our body starts shutting down and you start second-guessing things,” Gaethje said. “As a wrestler, I broke myself day in and day out as kid. Those are life lessons you have to learn the hard way.
“I think that’s maybe a factor for him, that he was never a grappler — that’s where I learned.”
Gaethje says his looming fight against Alvarez has zero personal feelings attached, and even praised the producers of TUF for not trying to force any drama between them on the show that wasn’t there.
Based on their styles, it’s a matchup that doesn’t need any drama to be one of the most anticipated of the year. As far as what’s beyond that, Gaethje sounds as excited about his options as the rest of the MMA community is.
“Tony Ferguson is someone I would literally like to put to sleep, with pleasure,” Gaethje said. “Other than that, [I want] the best. Khabib [Nurmagomedov] is undefeated. I want to fight him. Conor, of course. Eddie Alvarez is next on the list and I don’t need anything other than that because that’s where I’m at.”