UFC lightweight contender Justin Gaethje had his eyes on the main and co-main events of UFC 257 as did most of the MMA world on January 23 and seemed pleased with the results.
The former interim UFC lightweight champion spoke with ESPN's Brett Okamoto about Dustin Poirier's knockout victory over Conor McGregor, Michael Chandler's successful UFC debut, and how the event impacted the rest of the lightweight division. Gaethje seems set on doing whatever is needed to get an eventual rematch with Poirier but does see a lot of options present for himself after UFC 257.
"It was an awesome weekend for us lightweights, it really you know, shook up the division. It's really going to make the UFC, the matchmakers come together and come up with some ideas man," Gaethje said. "There's a lot of options, ya I saw they moved Dustin ahead of me in the rankings deservedly so. He's one, I'm two, Charles' (Oliveira) three, (Michael)Chandler's four. No matter what, I gotta get my revenge on Poirier, so I'm going to make it there no matter how I gotta get there."
Gaethje followed up with this on what he thought of McGregor's performance.
"Ya know he's not wrong, being out that long has got to be detrimental to a lot of things and a lot of that he's great at, which are timing, distance, and the thirst for carnage. Coach told me he's going to take my silk sheets away after that fight cause that's why that happened. Ya know that's probably the truth."
Although he wants a rematch with his fellow foe in Poirier, Gaethje expressed happiness for the Lafayette, Louisiana native's victory over the Irishman. He responded with the following when asked by Okamoto about whether he thought McGregor was still elite after getting finishing in the second-round by Poirier.
"I do, ya I mean his skills, a fights a fight man. Sometimes you get knocked out, sometimes you lose, sometimes you get your ass whooped. Ya know I didn't think he was getting his ass whooped the whole first round, I thought he looked good, came to fight, and I think he's fighting the best in the world, Dustin's great man. And again a lefty vs a lefty, that's something that he's not used to. I don't even know another lefty that he's fought in the UFC, another southpaw," Gaethje claimed. "So I don't know, those are all factors I think he's an elite fighter, what do they got him ranked at six? I think he should be ahead of Tony (Ferguson) in the rankings, but for him to come out and say he wants a title shot next, the rematch vs Poirier and his coach, their fucking idiots. He's been treated special over and over and over and he didn't capitalize on this opportunity. That event was for him, that event was for him to win, and he wants to be mister humble now, but you know he would be an asshole if he would've won that fight. So I don't feel bad for him, I'm glad, I'm happy for Poirier. I'm happy Poirier went out there and did his job, finished him, I love seeing a loudmouth get knocked out. There's nothing that makes me happier, seeing a piece of shit get put down that was great I loved it."
Gaethje made it very clear that he wouldn't mind fighting McGregor next, even though he doesn't think that the former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion would accept a bout with him.
"I would like to fight him, I don't think it should be my next fight. He ain't going to fight me, he just got his legs kicked off I kick legs better than anybody in the UFC. I'm not a southpaw so it would present a different challenge to get to the outside of his leg. But I don't think he wants to fight me, he didn't want to fight me when he fought Cerrone, he didn't want to fight me last year in 2020, in 2019 when he was talking shit he wanted to fight me. I'd rather fight Dustin Poirier absolutely, that's who I want to fight, that's the best man in the division right now if Khabib is retired."
He also followed that up with his thoughts on a potential fight with Nate Diaz and responded to some of the rumors that UFC President Dana White was looking to matchup Gaethje next against Stockton's finest.
"If they call me to fight Nate Diaz, I'm fighting Nate Diaz. I will roll him up and smoke him like a blunt, I could out-smoke Nate Diaz any day of the week I guarantee that. I'll roll him up and smoke him."
Gaethje then gave his thoughts on Michael Chandler's UFC debut and first-round finish over Dan Hooker. While complimentary of the former Bellator lightweight champion's performance, he was equally as critical of how Hooker looked but admitted a fight with Chandler is now definitely on his radar.
"Chandler did what he had to do man. Hooker looked like shit, he looked flat, he looked tired, he looked like he was in Abu Dhabi fighting at 7:00 AM. But Chandler didn't, both guys got to experience the same things and one guy showed up, one guy didn't," Gaethje said. "I was impressed with his performance, he did exactly what he had to do, go out there get a finish first round. Now he's in the talks to fight me, fight Oliveira, fight Poirier doesn't matter, fight McGregor. He's right there number four, so ya know he's a formidable opponent now. He offered nothing last fight, but now with his performance there is something
Lastly, he talked about ultimately who he wants next and named five different fighters, but focused on fellow contender Charles Oliveira. Gaethje praised Oliveira's skillset and even proclaimed him as the toughest matchup in the division currently.
"Poirier, Chandler, Oliveira, McGregor, Diaz. I mean Oliveira is the fucking toughest matchup in the division absolutely. He brings a very particular set of skills, but ya know Paul Felder knocked him out, he doesn't like getting hit and I hit like a truck," he said. "These guys think they're gonna come out here and take me down and grapple, ya know Khabib did something very special in there and there's nobody on planet earth that can take me down the way he did. You've seen that in my previous 24 fights so I'm not worried about that, I would finish him it wouldn't take long for me to really put him in a bad spot."