Justin Gaethje has made a living and built a legend by winning fights that look like car crashes, and as the UFC lightweight contender looks to make another run at the title, that’s not going to change.
- Former lightweight title challenger Justin Gaethje returns to action this week at UFC 286
- A win could propel Gaethje closer to a lightweight title fight against Islam Makhachev
- Gaethje also has his eye on Alex Volkanovski after the Australian’s loss to Makhahev last month
Gaethje faces Rafael Fiziev at UFC 286 in London this weekend knowing a victory could propel him closer to a third shot at the lightweight title, and he has pledged to continue the all-action style that has made him one of this generation’s most beloved fighters.
“I don’t see it as fighting a certain way, it’s just who I am,” Gaethje said.
“But it’s damn fun, I’ll tell you that, and there’s just some bonuses along the way.”
The American has ridden his particular brand of blunt-force artistry nearly all the way to championship gold, capturing an interim title in 2020 before falling short against Khabib Nurmagomedov and Charles Olivieria in his more recent title challenges.
But with new champion Islam Makhachev holding the belt and fresh blood at the top of the division in the form of Australia’s own Alex Volkanovski, Gaethje’s chances of landing another title shot are invigorated.
“Khabib showed him (Makhachev) the way, but I do believe he’s not Khabib and he is beatable. That’s the difference I see,” Gaethje said.
“I was impressed with Volkanovski. I don’t think anyone expected it to be that close, and after he goes out there like that in my weight class, I have to take notice of that.”
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Those title losses are Gaethje’s only defeats in the past five years and he’s been focused on adding more muscle to his frame since the loss to Olivieria last May.
With Fiziev, an Azerbaijani wrecking machine who has scored three blistering knockouts in his past four fights, waiting in the wings, this has all the ingredients for a Fight of the Year contender.
“Coming off a loss really kicks you in the ass, no pun intended,” Gaethje said.
“I really wanted to concentrate on getting a bit of size, so I started lifting weights immediately after the last fight, and I’ve been training my ass off.
“When you get your ass kicked like that, there’s no other way to do it.
“He’s got incredible striking. His experience in striking fights is similar to my experience with grappling, and that’s the biggest factor, but we’re playing a different game.
“You have to mix it up in there and it’s a game of less than inches, less than seconds, and I’m always willing to roll the dice in myself.
“I fight how I fight, there’s no doubt about that, and this is a guy who can match the energy. I can’t wait to watch it when it’s over.”