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Justin Gaethje has a fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov in his future, but if he becomes the undisputed lightweight king, a date with Conor McGregor could loom.
McGregor recenty announced his retirement via Twitter, his third such announcement in recent years. On the other two occasions, McGregor eventually returned to the Octagon, and many believe his latest exit is another negotiating ploy. The “Notorious” also expressed disappointment that the promotion didn’t book him against Gaethje after “The Highlight” defeated Tony Ferguson at UFC 249.
Gaethje is especially confident that McGregor will end the latest hiatus if he knocks off Nurmagomedov in their bout, which is rumored for September. McGregor already lost to Nurmagomedov via submission in October 2018, and Gaethje isn’t as certain that the former two-division champion will be as eager to return for a rematch with the Dagestani fighter.
“I think he’ll fight again. I think he should wait for the winner of me and Khabib,” Gaethje said on ESPN's “Now or Never”. “If I win, I think he definitely comes back. If Khabib wins, I don’t know. I’m not sure about that.
“He’s a legend, man. What he did was legendary status. I’ll never take that away from him. He deserves credit. He’s accomplished so much in this sport. What every fighter wants to attain, he accomplished, so hats off to him. I can’t wait to punch him in the face.”
Not surprisingly, Gaethje likes is chances in a hypothetical matchup with McGregor, particularly if the fight heads into the championship rounds.
“Distance control is the No. 1 factor in any fight,” Gaethje said. “It’s established in the first 30 seconds. It’s not visible, but it’s established, and that would be a huge factor in our fight. Who can control the distance? I think the best thing about me is I can kick the s—t out of people, so when they are trying to control distance or maybe they are winning at that, I can kick them in the leg and try to reset that. So I think I would knock him out, to be honest.
“I think he’s got about three rounds, and then it’s hell, and he doesn’t want to go to hell, so I think he’s good for now.”