Gaethje is a replacement for UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and he is happy to screw up the UFC’s future plans for a fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson.
“As a fan, I want to see that fight just as much as anybody," Gaethje said to Brett Okamoto of ESPN (via Jed Meshew of MMA Fighting). “But to put food on my table. . . I really don’t care about that. I will feel a little bad because I know how bad people want it but for me to act like it will bother me, that would be a lie. I’m going to be very happy to royally screw that up.”
The winner of the UFC 249 main event is expected to fight Nurmagomedov next, but no date has been announced for that encounter.
While the winner of the UFC 249 main event will become the interim lightweight champion, it is a belt that Gaethje views as a map to the top.
“When they wrap that belt around me, it won’t be a destination, it will be a map, a map to the top,” Gaethje said. “That’s how I’m looking at it. It will be nice to have a belt wrapped around you but for me it won’t be the same. It will never mean that I’m a world champion in the UFC. But yes, absolutely, when I beat Tony, I’m fighting Khabib next. That’s what I’m here for. I’m trying to be the best in the world. And when I fight him I want him to try to kill me because I won’t respect him if he doesn’t.”
UFC 249 takes place on Saturday, May 9 from an undisclosed location in Florida with Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje headlining. Fightful is providing live coverage of the event, with a post-show podcast to follow.