Justin Gaethje once again turned in a memorable performance inside the Octagon on Saturday night in the main event of UFC Fight Night 158 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. “The Highlight” dispatched fan favorite Donald Cerrone in the first round and now has his sights squarely set on three possible opponents.
Gaethje (21-2) used a stellar striking attack – primarily his low kicks – before dropping “Cowboy” with a powerful counter right hook to the jaw. From there, Gaethje unloaded several punches as Cerrone turtled up and tried to survive, but then squawked at referee Jerin Valel for what he thought was a late stoppage.
“It was difficult to fight a guy I consider a friend,” Gaethje said after conquering one of the greatest fighters never to win a UFC world title. “I never want to do that again. Donald is so tough. The ref in the back said if you fall on your face it’s over and I thought that happened two times, he’s my friend I didn’t want to keep punching him.”
While Gaethje is in the mix for the next lightweight title shot, he doesn’t have a clear idea for what’s next, although talks regarding a showdown with Conor McGregor are still prevalent. Either option could be appealing.
“I have no idea what’s next,” he said. “Every time I walk out here, I question everything on purpose. I think they’re better than me, I think they work harder than me, I have something to prove to myself every time I step in here and I will never let myself down. Max effort if what I expect from myself.”
When asked if he wanted to fight McGregor next, Gaethje didn’t hesitate to insult “Notorious.”
“The Irishman is retired,” he stated. “I want a real fighter. I want the winner of Tony [Ferguson] and Khabib [Nurmagomedov].”
Pressed further about fighting McGregor next rather than being on the sidelines waiting for the expected showdown between champion Nurmagomedov and Ferguson, “The Highlight” was quick to say that he wants to punish McGregor for his behavior outside of the cage.
“He punched an old man in the face,” he said on the ESPN+ post0fight show. “I want to fuck him up for that.”
Provided he gets past McGregor or, if he opts to wait it out and lands a crack at “The Eagle’s” title, he’s brimming with confidence against Nurmagomedov.
“He probably beats me if you put it on paper,” he said. “But I hit so hard, I kick so hard, and I’m so athletic. The way you stop a takedown in wrestling is to meet force with force. You don’t try to go away.
“I won’t touch the cage,” he added. “If he’s going to take me down, it’s going to be in the middle, and he’s going to get his leg kicked a few times before he even gets a shot off.”