London, England — Justin Gaethje is admittedly fighting down in the rankings at UFC 286, and deservedly so. With a win, however, he’s expecting a quick return to the top of the lightweight division.
Gaethje (23-4) has Rafael Fiziev in front of him, who is looking to break into the top five of the weight class himself. In this instance, Gaethje understands fighting a lower-ranked opponent.
“I think it’s the natural progression of this sport. I’m going off a loss, fought for the title two of my last three fights. Number six isn’t that far down, so yeah, I think at this point I’ve got to get a win, and it doesn’t matter who it is,” Gaethje told media outlets including Cageside Press during Wednesday’s UFC 286 media day.
“I think I’m sitting at number three right now, I’m going to fight down in the rankings as I think I should. And then after that, there’s [Dustin] Poirier in front of me, [Charles] Oliveira in front of me, who’s going to fight [Beneil] Dariush. The winner of that fight’s going to fight for the title. So I either fight Poirier next and if that’s not the case then I fight for the title.”
Gaethje and Poirier fought once before, a fight that saw “The Highlight” finished in the fourth round. But few fans would argue against a rematch, given how entertaining the first meeting was — and then there’s Gaethje’s status among the all-time great entertainers in the sport.
That’s something the Elevation Fight Team member takes considerable pride in. “Oh yeah. Of course I’m going to blow the roof off the arena. I’m the most exciting fighter that has ever stepped in the octagon in the history of this sport,” Gaethje exclaimed. “Of course I pride myself for that.”
That level of excitement doesn’t come from anything Gaethje is consciously planning during a fight, mind you. As he explained it, “it’s moving so fast. I definitely cannot remember a thought. Your ability to retain information in there is non-existent. It’s moving so fast, and if you take the time to retain information, your peripherals, your intuition just goes out the window for one, two seconds. And we’re fighting less than seconds, less than inches, so there’s no time for any of that.”
And so the explosive finishes and violent fights aren’t something that factors into his training, nor does he need to temper his own expectations on that end. “It’s not on purpose, it’s just who I am. In wrestling, wrestling can be boring, my wrestling matches were never boring. I don’t know why. I can’t turn it off.”
Watch the full UFC 286 media day with Justin Gaethje above.