UFC Vancouver’s Justin Gaethje: Khabib “Probably Beats Me” On Paper, Willing to Fight Conor

Tony Ferguson deserves the next shot, Khabib beats him on paper, Conor McGregor is of interest — Justin Gaethje may be a man of few words, but he made them count following UFC Vancouver.

Vancouver, B.C. — Even in victory, Justin Gaethje is abrupt. To the point. His no fuss, no muss style might seem curt, but the bottom line is that Gaethje is as intense outside the octagon as he is in it. And he was very intense in the main event of UFC Vancouver.

Against Cowboy Cerrone, Gaethje showed some excellent shot selection, dropped his friend (outside fight week, at least), and moved in for the kill. The ref might have been a tad slow on the draw, and Gaethje clearly had words for him.

Post-fight, ‘The Highlight,’ now 21-2, told reporters including Cageside Press that it was because Cerrone “fell forward twice. In the back, [the ref] says ‘I’ll always stop it if you fall forward.’ He fell forward twice, so I thought he should stop it. Whatever. He was doing his job. I told him ‘sorry.'”

It’s hard to argue that Gaethje doesn’t deserve the winner of lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson. But the timing may not be great, leaving Gaethje sitting for a while. “Yeah. I don’t know. I put people around me to make those decisions. I’m a warrior,” Gaethje told Cageside Press.

Gaethje’s coach, Trevor Wittman, then added in that his student “stopped Cowboy, and Ferguson couldn’t, so I think you should be skipped up.” Gaethje in place of Ferguson? That might be a tough sell to many, but Gaethje’s all for it.

“My coach is a smart guy. No one’s ever finished Edson [Barboza] or Cowboy, and I just finished both those guys. That is true that Tony could not do that.”  Ferguson’s fight against Cowboy actually did end in a stoppage, but it was a doctor’s stoppage. Cowboy, meanwhile, had been stopped before.

Still, Gaethje was won his way into the title picture. And seems to have done so by adapting his style. Choosing his spots. But asked if his reservation was at all from his friendship with Cerrone, Gaethje said it wasn’t.

“I’ve learned that I have a couple sledgehammers attached to these arms,” he said. “So as long as my feet put me in position, and I have a great coach that has me balanced at all points — I can throw from the left side, from the right side, as I’m taking angles. That’s what we’re working on, and I was very successful tonight. I was great tonight, I’ll give myself that.”

Gaethje did say post fight, however, that he doesn’t want to fight a friend again. Luckily, “I have no more friends in this game,” he claimed. “Maybe some in other weight classes, but not in this weight class,” he added.

Fighting Cerrone, however, “felt the same as every other fight. Like I said yesterday, he wasn’t going to see a familiar or friendly face in there.”

“He signed the contract, I wish that didn’t happen,” Gaethje admitted. “The fact that he signed the contract means he wants to take something from me. So I can’t let that happen.” And he didn’t.

Post-fight, Cerrone put Gaethje over with the crowd, giving him props on the mic. Asked about that moment, ‘The Highlight’ said “It’s great. I’m a fan of him, man. I’ve been watching this for a very long time, he’s been around for a very long time, most wins, most finishes, most bonuses. He’s a 1000% shoe-in to be a Hall of Famer. To get that kind of credit, it means a lot.”

So next is the Khabib vs. Tony fight, right? Well… “I haven’t even heard that Tony’s going to fight. So if an injury occurs, then absolutely.”

Would he take the fight short notice, if Ferguson was hurt, for example? Gaethje has said in the past he’s not a fan of short-notice fights. Nothing has changed, not even for gold. “Probably not.”

What about a backup shot? “It depends on how much they’d pay me. It’s hard to train for something like that without actually having the task ahead of you. I need the task ahead of me, I need to face that fear every day.”

Dustin Porier‘s name came up next. Poirier has a win over Gaethje, and just lost to the champ. Gaethje wasn’t biting. “I would be really, really happy to fight a winner of the fight. I don’t owe him that. So no. He got his shot. My turn.”

And Conor McGregor? “As far as I know he’s retired. He is in the rankings. So he either fights, or he gets out. That’s how I see it. I absolutely would love to fight him.”

For what seemed like a bonus round, Gathje then fired off a few more quick answers. Who deserves the next title shot? “Tony Ferguson.” Who wins in Khabib vs. Tony? “Khabib Nurmagomedov.”

Who wins between Gaethje and Khabib? “No idea.”

“I don’t know,” Gaethje admitted. “He probably beats me if you put in on paper. Man I hit so hard and I kick so hard and I’m so athletic. The way you stop a takedown in wrestling is to meet force with force. You don’t try to go away. I won’t touch the cage, if he’s going to take me down, it’s going to be in the middle, and he’s going to get his leg kicked a few times before he even gets a shot off.”

Watch the full UFC Vancouver post-fight press scrum with Justin Gaethje above!