Justin Gaethje says Dustin Poirier ‘obvious choice’ for next fight, thinks he can KO Islam Makhachev.
Gaethje (24-4 MMA, 7-4 UFC) snapped Rafael Fiziev’s winning streak earlier this month at UFC 286 in London and is looking to re-enter the title picture.
A rematch with Poirier is on Gaethje’s mind, as he looks to avenge his 2018 TKO loss to “The Diamond” in what was a the Fight of the Year.
“I think that’s the obvious choice, Dustin,” Justin Gaethje told TMZ. “He’s sitting at No. 2 right now, I gave the new guys a chance and I proved that I am elite, and I need to fight elite fighters to fight for a belt. I think Dustin’s the obvious choice. I think the loser of Dariush and Oliveira is also an option. But outside of those two, I do not see an option.”
Sitting on the throne at lightweight is Islam Makhachev (24-1 MMA, 13-1 UFC), whose grappling has posed big problems for the majority of his opposition. Gaethje is aware of those dangers, but is confident he can hurt Makhachev if they fight.
“I think it’s a hard fight for anybody, obviously,” Justin Gaethje said. “He’s the champion for a reason. Just create damage. I would have to fight the perfect fight, similar to the fight that I just fought, similar to the fight I fought against Tony Ferguson where I controlled space and anytime they entered my space, I created damage, and that allows me the space I need to perform.
“Obviously a lot of grappling. I’m not going to become better at submission grappling than him right now, but the cardiovascular capacity that I would have to gain to fight that fight comfortably would be the primary focus. I think I can knock him out. I think I can knock anybody out with the power that I possess.”
Gaethje fought Makhachev’s mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov for the title in 2020, but fell short when he was submitted in Round 2. But “The Highlight” says one main factor separates Nurmagomedov and Makhachev.
“I think they’re very similar,” Justin Gaethje added. “I think the biggest difference is Islam has been finished. He’s lost a fight, he’s been finished. So that aura of invincibility is there, but it’s not based on 100 percent facts like Khabib had, I think that’s the biggest factor, the biggest difference.”