Listen to Beatdown's interview with Justin Gaethje in the player above.
Justin Gaethje and Nick Newell will enter the cage for the biggest fight of their careers this Saturday when they battle over the World Series of Fighting lightweight title at WSOF 11.
The fight, which takes place at Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., will headline WSOF’s network debut on NBC.
An event of such magnitude has required many promotion and press obligations for the highly regarded 155-pounders, which in turn required the men to spend a significant amount of time together. Perhaps surprisingly, the champion and challenger have not had much of a problem with being around one another so frequently.
During a Monday appearance on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show, both men explained the fine line “friends” walk in the sport of MMA.
According to incumbent champ Gaethje, he admires the path “Notorious” has taken to the title and acknowledges the feel-good tale that Newell encompasses. But the 25-year-old is well aware that taking his foe lightly could cost him the belt around his waist.
“Unfortunately, it sucks that I have to be the one to take this good story and put it to an end. I don’t like that, [but] that’s my job,” said Gaethje. “I am not going to get in there and hold back. When I get in there, I am going to try and knock Nick’s head off.”
But how does one do such a thing against a man who has yet to experience the bitter taste of defeat?
“When it comes to Nick, I know that I am going to have to make him quit, and that’s not going to be easy,” Gaethje explained. “But, I don’t think he’s ever been hit like I am going to hit him, so I am not sure how he’s going to take that. I don’t want to do this, but he asked for it. He knew what he was getting into, and I’ve been working hard, so I’m gonna give it to him.”
For Newell, friendship means nothing once the cage door shuts. With an undefeated record of 11-0, the Springfield, Mass., native is obviously doing something right.
“I’ve spent a lot of time around Justin promoting this fight. He’s definitely someone I can see myself hanging out with,” Newell said. “But, he stands in the way of everything I’ve worked hard for and what I want, so he must be destroyed.
“It doesn’t matter if we like each other, because we aren’t going to like each other when the cage door shuts. We are going to try and rip each other’s heads off.”
When asked if his relationship with Gaethje outside the cage would have any effect on whether he’d try to harm his opponent, Newell laid it out clearly.
“Whether I beat him nice and easy, or I have to beat him so bad that they need to check his dental records to make sure it’s really him, I am willing to do whatever it takes to become the champion,“ said Newell. “I worked too hard to finish in second place. I am not going to let anyone get in the way of my dream.”