Gaethje’s remarks come after Charles Oliveira’s successful defence of his lightweight title against Dustin’ The Diamond’ Poirier. Oliveira choked out Poirier in the third round in a dominating performance, registering a submission win.
It was Oliveira’s 29th finish in 32 career victories. The Brazilian is one of only nine fighters to have won 20 UFC fights.
Should Justin Gaethje fight Oliveira next?
Gaethje is the rational next challenger for Oliveira.
After all, he is number one in the rankings, and he’s coming fresh off the heels of a big victory against Michael Chandler at UFC 268. Even UFC president Dana White has claimed that Gaethje should be the next in line.
But UFC is a business more than it is a sport.
Conor McGregor’s reputation as a fighter might have dipped in recent times, but his celebrity status hasn’t. It would be an easy sale: McGregor returns from months of absence due to injury and immediately challenges the current champion. A McGregor return on the big stage would immediately attract the casual fan’s attention.
However, Gaethje is not having it.
He adamantly refused even to entertain McGregor as a rival during a recent interview. McGregor, Gaethje claims, “is irrelevant” and should not be handed the opportunity to compete for the title ahead of fighters who have worked harder than he has.
Gaethje said: “He has not won a fight since 2016 in the lightweight division. I’m ranked number one. I saw they updated the rankings. I’m number one now. That feels pretty good. My whole life, I’ve been working towards this.”
In classic Gaethje fashion, things got heated up quickly. The stakes are now even higher than before: “That is what’s next. If not, I’ll f*cking burn it down. I’ll show up and start throwing dollies everywhere.”
In all fairness to Gaethje, a fight between him and Oliveira would be something to see. They are both exceptional fighters, and there would be some personal spice to it. The Arizonan once questioned the Brazilian’s guts, calling him “a quitter”.
Oliveira let his fighting speak for itself with his last UFC victory, but if there’s something that Gaethje loves, that is having the last word.
It’s safe to assume this isn’t the last we’ll hear about McGregor’s title contention.