Category Archives: Justin Gaethje

PFL chief Carlos Silva: Justin Gaethje's incredible UFC debut was no surprise

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Professional Fighters League CEO Carlos Silva isn’t surprised Justin Gaethje is making waves in the UFC. He saw what Gaethje could do in the World Series of Fighting.

“We really hope he’ll become a UFC champion and continue his march,” Silva told MMAjunkie Radio. “He’s the first one to say that eventually he’s going to lose, but in the meantime I’m looking forward to seeing him go 19-0.”

Before the WSOF rebranded as the PFL, Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) ruled as the promotion’s lightweight champ, defending his belt five times before testing the free-agent waters. He signed with the UFC in May and made his debut earlier this month at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, taking out Michael Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) in one of the most spectacular UFC debuts ever.

Gaethje brought folks from his native Colorado but still managed to turn the entire crowd at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena into fans. Silva attributes that draw to Gaethje’s early work in the WSOF. He said the rising UFC star found his footing in the promotion, aided by Ray Sefo, WSOF’s former president and current PFL fighting operations president.

“I think when they see Ray in that fighter meeting, with the 100 fights he’s been through, they listen and they come through and perform,” Silva said. “Justin showed the UFC, showed Bellator, showed everybody that he’s a great fighter no matter where he’s fighting.”

The PFL’s official debut this past month in Daytona, Fla., brought more exciting fights, said Silva, and introduced the world to a newly revamped promotion that plans to develop more MMA stars. Its next event, PFL: Everett, takes place July 29 in Everett, Wash., and airs on NBCSN.

Gaethje’s next fight, meanwhile, is in front of cameras as he takes on ex-champ Eddie Alvarez (28-5 MMA, 3-2 UFC) as a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter 26,” which will crown the inaugural women’s flyweight champ.

Silva, of course, will be watching when Gaethje and Alvarez step into the cage for the traditional season-ending coaches fight.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, visit the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

With Gaethje and Alvarez official as coaches, 'TUF 26' gets August debut date

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“The Ultimate Fighter 26,” which features two former big-show champions as opposing coaches, now had a debut date.

As reported this past week, former WSOF lightweight champion and recent UFC debutant Justin Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) and ex-UFC titleholder Eddie Alvarez (28-5 MMA, 3-2 UFC) have tapped as coaches for the show, which debuts Aug. 30 at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) on FS1.

Filming for the long-running reality show recently began in Las Vegas and is expected to run six weeks. “TUF 26” features the debut of women’s flyweights, with the show’s tournament final crowning a new “TUF” champion and the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight champ.

“TUF 26” tryouts took place in May and drew 46 hopefuls, including former Invicta FC flyweight champion Barb Honchak (10-2, 0-0 UFC), “TUF 18” cast member Roxanne Modafferi (21-13 MMA, 0-1 UFC) and UFC vet Lauren Murphy (9-3 MMA, 1-3 UFC).

The official cast, as well as the head coaches’ team of assistant coaches, will be announced in the coming weeks.

UFC President Dana White told MMAjunkie the addition of a new UFC division – the promotion’s 12th overall – will prompt fighters from the smaller strawweight class and bigger bantamweight class to migrate.

“We’re pretty confident that we’re going to have a packed division.” he said. “… I think there are enough talented women to make three good divisions.”

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Tony Ferguson believes '(expletive) lazy' Khabib Nurmagomedov is setting himself up to fail

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UFC lightweight title contender Tony Ferguson applauds the idea of the UFC sending Khabib Nurmagomedov to the promotion’s Performance Institute. But if Nurmagomedov waits until his next fight camp to get there, Ferguson believes it will be for naught.

“I think wholeheartedly the Performance Institute is a good idea, but if he wants to wait until fall to do that, I think you’re preparing for failure,” Ferguson told MMAjunkie Radio. “You need to get your ass there now.

“Learn how to count some calories and actually give a (expletive) for your weight. I understand he doesn’t need money to fight – then retire. (Expletive) go away, man. You want to fight at 170, you want make a superfight, well we can handle that.”

Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) is waiting on his next booking after his pay-per-view co-headliner against Nurmagomedov (24-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) at UFC 209 was canceled when a bad weight cut forced Nurmagomedov to withdraw.

A title fight with champ Conor McGregor is obviously Ferguson’s preference, but McGregor is tied up with a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather. Ferguson said the Irish champ made sure to avoid a confrontation when he crashed the first press conference Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Although his fight with Nurmagomedov has been canceled three times, Ferguson is still open to the idea of an interim title bout with the Dagestani fighter, even if he remains skeptical whether it will happen.

Ferguson called Nurmagomedov “(expletive) lazy” and said of his weight cut, “There is a right way to do it, and I think the old-school way that they’re doing it needs to be upgraded.”

That’s presumably where the Performance Institute comes in. This past weekend, UFC President Dana White said Nurmagomedov will get access to nutritionists and other sports therapists to ensure he’s able to safely make 155 pounds.

 

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Justin Gaethje, ex-UFC champ Eddie Alvarez to coach Season 26 of 'The Ultimate Fighter'

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Fresh off a “Fight of the Year” candidate in his UFC debut, lightweight Justin Gaethje will coach “The Ultimate Fighter 26” opposite ex-champ Eddie Alvarez.

UFC President Dana White confirmed the news today to veteran MMA personality Luke Thomas on the third stop of “The Money Tour” in New York. The promotion has yet to make a formal announcement on the coaches.

Filming for the long-running reality show began Wednesday in Las Vegas and is expected to run six weeks. “TUF 26” will feature the debut of women’s flyweights, with the show’s finale crowning a new “TUF” champion and the inaugural women’s flyweight champ.

Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) joins the show after a second-round TKO of Michael Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale that won instant praise from White and MMA observers.

After his win, Gaethje called out top contender Tony Ferguson, who agreed to a fight. But now, he shifts to Alvarez (28-5 MMA, 3-2 UFC), who recently fought Dustin Poirier (21-5 MMA, 13-4 UFC) to a controversial no-contest at UFC 211. Poirier tried to overturn the result, arguing Alvarez should be disqualified for a trio of illegal knees, but his appeal was denied.

Tryouts for the 26th season of “TUF” took place in May, drawing 46 applicants, including former Invicta FC flyweight champion Barb Honchak (10-2, 0-0 UFC), “TUF 18” cast member Roxanne Modafferi (21-13 MMA, 0-1 UFC) and four-time UFC veteran Lauren Murphy (9-3 MMA, 1-3 UFC).

White told MMAjunkie the addition of a new UFC division – the promotion’s 12th overall – will prompt fighters from the smaller strawweight class and bigger bantamweight class to migrate.

“We’re pretty confident that we’re going to have a packed division. … I think there are enough talented women to make three good divisions,” he said.

The women’s flyweight division also appears open for business outside the reality show. Women’s bantamweight veteran Jessica Eye (11-6 MMA, 1-5 UFC) said matchmakers granted her a fight at 125 pounds after her bout with Aspen Ladd (5-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) was canceled at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale.

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 26, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Twitter Mailbag: Is McGregor getting to Mayweather, or does calling him 'boy' go too far?

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Is Floyd Mayweather losing the press tour portion of his fight with Conor McGregor? Did McGregor cross a line by calling Mayweather “boy”? What, if anything, should the journalists association do about Ariel Helwani’s removal from the Showtime team?

All that and much more, including some insight on fighter pay from Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

You know what press conferences tell you? They tell you who is better at doing press conferences. And clearly, that would be Conor McGregor. He’s a more energetic and charismatic figure on stage than Floyd Mayweather is, and it’s not even close. He’s also just generally easier to like, seeing as how he does not have a history of assaulting women.

Mayweather doesn’t excel at firing up a crowd the way McGregor does, except for when he’s inviting them to hate him. But he was right about one thing he said at Wednesday’s press conference in Toronto: The fans, as enthusiastic as they are, can’t fight for McGregor.

There is no part of me that believes Mayweather is the least bit worried about McGregor’s boxing skills. Mayweather has been at this since childhood. He’s seen just about everything there is to be seen inside a boxing ring. McGregor has never even been there as a professional.

It’s possible that Mayweather could get too confident and take it too easy in either preparation or execution. It’s possible that McGregor could land one magic punch.

But I’m reminded of what Larry Holmes said about Eric “Butterbean” Esch before their fight, as documented in the excellent story “Champion at Twilight” by Carlo Rotella. After briefly trying to sell the fight as a competitive affair, Holmes gave up and admitted the truth, which was that he didn’t see anyway Butterbean could hurt him.

“Maybe he lands a lucky punch, but I don’t believe in luck,” Holmes said. “Not that kind.”

Yeah, so, in case you didn’t hear, in two consecutive press conferences McGregor referred to Mayweather as “boy.” The first time he did it, encouraging a shadowboxing Mayweather to “dance for me, boy,” he seemed to immediately realize his error, at which point he switched to “dance for me, son.” Then at the following day’s press conference he went right back to “boy,” forcing me to do the Britney Spears cringe face.

If he’d said the same thing to Khabib Nurmagomedov, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning. But since he said it to a black fighter in a country where “boy” was historically used by white men in order to demean black men, it understandably set off some alarms.

You could make the case, and many have, that McGregor should get a pass on this one since he comes from a different country and culture where terms like this don’t have the same historical resonance. I can buy that to some extent. You can’t grow up in the U.S. and not know that a white man calling a black man “boy” carries some serious baggage. But could you grow up in Ireland and genuinely not know it? Sure, probably.

Still, at some point you’d think someone would whisper a history lesson in his ear. He’s working in the rare field in which he can call his colleague all sorts of derogatory names at considerable volume in the most public of settings, and he’ll be rewarded instead of punished. The list of words he’ll actually get in trouble for using is pretty short. It wouldn’t be so hard to steer clear of this one, and it would even make sense. (One of McGregor’s other talking points is how old Mayweather is; you can’t call a man 12 years your senior a boy.)

I don’t think McGregor is racist. I think he’s doing his best to be inflammatory, as he has with all his pre-fight talk, and that’s one of the main reasons he’s on that stage with Mayweather, getting ready to cash a huge check. But when these questionable moments start to pile up, soon even comments like this one, where he refers to “dancing monkeys” in the gym during “Rocky III,” begin to catch people’s attention.

Do I think he meant that as racist? No, I heard it and thought he actually meant the earlier scene, not the one where Apollo takes Rocky to the gym full of black fighters, but the one where Rocky’s so famous his training camp has become a media circus (and Mickey haaates it). Warning: I don’t remember it all that well, because who watches “Rocky III” except for the Mr. T parts, but you could almost convince me that there were literal dancing monkeys in that first gym. Hell, in the next movie Rocky’s brother-in-law sexualizes a robot that was given to him as a gift from his family. Dancing monkeys would not be unthinkable for the Rocky franchise.

Still, wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to wonder what he meant by that? Or if we didn’t have to give ammunition to the “MMA is all racist skinheads” crowd? McGregor is MMA’s representative in what’s likely to be the most-watched pay-per-view fight of all time. It’d be great if we didn’t have to defend him before the fight even starts.

It’s a tough call for a few reasons. For one, the MMAJA is still in the process of adding members, so any action right now would have to come from those of us on the interim board, which is only six people. Speaking up or taking action would mean speaking on behalf of newly confirmed members, who had no say in the decision because they just joined this week. That doesn’t seem fair.

Also, while I think it’s extremely petty (and yet soooooo in character) on Dana White’s part if indeed he did pressure Showtime into yanking a job opportunity away from Ariel Helwani, it’s still an employment issue – not an access issue. If White had banned Helwani from attending this press tour, that would be different. But he didn’t. Helwani is there at every stop, doing his job as a journalist for the same outlet he’s more or less always worked for.

Does that make it a cool move on the part of White or on the part of Showtime, which just let itself be dragged into a nonsensical grudge by caving to the demands of one of the least essential parties to this fight? No it does not. But the MMAJA is and should be focused on creating and maintaining an environment where media members can effectively do their jobs. All week at this traveling circus, Helwani has been doing his.

People are putting too much emphasis on two key things here: The fact that Amanda Nunes withdrew the day of the fight, and that she was “cleared” by a doctor.

It’s relatively easy to know when you should withdraw from a fight with a broken hand, and it’s the minute you see the X-ray. The rate at which your bones heal is fairly predictable. But if you’re sick, especially with an illness you’ve struggled with before, how do you know you won’t feel better tomorrow? Or at least better enough to fight? Maybe Nunes held onto that hope for too long, but if so I’m inclined to believe that it was because she really wanted to fight.

As for being cleared, according to Nunes and her camp that consisted of a doctor checking her blood and her hydration levels. People who’ve dealt with sinusitis say it sometimes takes weeks and multiple doctors to even get a correct diagnosis, so maybe it’s not the easiest thing to identify. Even then, it’s not like there’s some magic test doctors can perform to determine physical fight readiness. At best, all they can do is tell you when you absolutely shouldn’t compete. Even then people get cleared with broken bones and torn ligaments and facial lacerations that were very recently glued shut.

Could Nunes have fought sick? Probably. Would it have harmed her chances of winning? Almost certainly. By pulling out the day of the fight, she made some people mad at her. But how many of those people would have cared about her if she’d gone through with it and taken a career- and/or life-changing beating while she was already sick?

People want to compare it to other jobs, or even other pro sports. If a quarterback has the flu and still plays in the big game, for one thing, everybody knows and talks about it in advance. It’s also a shared decision with shared responsibility. He plays poorly? Hey, maybe the coach should have gone with the backup. And why didn’t the front office sign a better backup?

In fighting, you’re all alone. No one wants to hear your excuses afterward. And one fight can be the difference in hundreds of thousands of dollars in future earnings. So I don’t blame a fighter who looks out for herself. Who else in this sport will do it for her?

Preach, brother. When I hear that Justin Gaethje is targeted as a coach on an upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” all I hear is that I’ve got no chance of seeing him do the one thing I want to watch him do for at least a few months.

Even then, coaches on “TUF” don’t have the best track record of actually making it to the promised fight at the end. (Just ask last season’s coaches, Cody Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw, who were supposed to fight last weekend and didn’t.)

I’m sure that, especially with his fighting style, Gaethje could probably use a break to rest and recover. But I’m not particularly interested in watching the process unfold on reality TV.

According to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the fighters on “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series” (note that it’s not the UFC, but DWTNCS LLC that’s the promoter of record) all got $5,000 to show and $5,000 to win.

That’s half the entry-level pay for many UFC fighters, but it’s still pretty competitive for what most of these fighters would make in smaller shows. As far as why they do it, obviously they’re hoping it will vault them into the UFC, and maybe even with a little extra push after we watched them cave in someone else’s nose at the job interview.

Competition between fight promotions is a good thing for fighters and fans. It leads to better products from both Bellator and the UFC, since they’re forced to up their game in the race against one another. It leads to better pay and treatment for fighters, as both fight promoters try to sign the fighters they want and keep the ones they already have. The only people it’s not good for are the executives who would rather make more for giving us less.

What’s different about the Gegard Mousasi signing is that it’s a fighter on the upswing leaving the UFC for what he perceives as a better deal with better treatment in Bellator. If that pays off – if two years from now you hear Mousasi raving about his Bellator life rather than ruefully regretting this decision – that will have an impact on other fighters.

The other piece of the puzzle is that at some point Bellator will reach a certain critical mass of fighters who matter. You get one or two big names, so what? Big fights require two big fighters. A few free agent signings mean nothing if you don’t have anyone worthwhile to match them up against.

But Bellator is gradually beefing up some of its key divisions now, and with fighters who can and will fight in multiple weight classes. That means matchups worth making and fights worth seeing. If the money’s right and the treatment is better, don’t be surprised if more fighters decide they might like to join that party.

Good question. Again, it depends what kind of hall of fame the UFC wants to have (and that decision is entirely left to the UFC at this point). As my podcast co-host Chad Dundas likes to frame it, it’s a question of whether you want to have an all-time greats hall of fame or just an awesome dudes (and dudettes) hall of fame.

If it’s the second one, then yes, Jim Miller gets in. He’s been an exciting, reliable workhorse for the UFC, and he’s had tons of memorable battles over many, many years.

But if this is just for the all-time greats? Sorry, but I don’t think so. Miller’s never held a UFC title or even challenged for one. The only other current UFC HOF member with a similar deal is Stephan Bonnar, and clearly he’s there just for one important fight. But who knows, maybe there’s still time for Miller to make his case on those grounds.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

For more on “The Money Fight: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor,” check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Ferguson-Nurmagomedov top choice for White – but Ferguson-Gaethje also intriguing

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LAS VEGAS – The thrice-canceled bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson may get a fourth attempt.

But if Nurmagomedov (24-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) isn’t able to solve the issues that led him to withdraw from the third attempted booking, newly minted star Justin Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) could take his place.

UFC President Dana White said Gaethje’s callout of Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) – and Ferguson’s response – didn’t prompt him to immediately make the fight. He had other things in mind.

“I actually still want to see Khabib vs. Tony,” White said on Saturday. “It doesn’t have to happen first, but I’d kind of like to see it.

“I know that Khabib is set up to come to Las Vegas and go to the (UFC) Performance Institute and work with the nutritionists there and therapists. But if he’s not ready to fight, I’d go Gaethje and Tony.”

Gaethje made a sensational debut Friday at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, bringing the house to its feet with a back-and-forth battle with Michael Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) in the FS1-televised headliner. After getting rocked multiple times, he walked away with a second-round TKO to stay unbeaten.

Afterward, Gaethje welcomed any potential foe and estimated he had one or two fights before being ready to vie for a title. But he specifically targeted Ferguson as his ideal opponent for an interim title bout, even though he thought Ferguson wouldn’t accept.

One day later, he was proven wrong when Ferguson responded – with the caveat that the fight would have to be for an interim title.

As it turns out, Gaethje may have to wait for Ferguson. But in the meantime, White said, there are plenty of good options on the table in the lightweight division while current champ Conor McGregor is focused on his upcoming boxing mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather.

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Justin Gaethje: I bet Michael Bisping knows how to say my name now after UFC debut

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LAS VEGAS – UFC lightweight Justin Gaethje doesn’t seem to be holding a grudge against his debut opponent Michael Johnson.

But he might be building a new one with Michael Bisping, who backed Johnson in Friday’s FS1-televised The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“Bisping, he said that he wanted Michael Johnson to go out there and represent all UFC fighters,” Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) told MMAjunkie after his spectacular second-round TKO of Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC). “That’s only because they’re cut from the same cloth. Not many fighters want Michael Johnson and the way he was speaking to represent them. You want me representing you, because I put it on the line.

“I’m not here to crap on anybody, except Michael Bisping. He didn’t even know how to say my name. I bet he knows now.”

Gaethje and Johnson jawed back and forth in the buildup to their fight, and Johnson made some poor choices when insulting Gaethje’s family. Gaethje said he didn’t let the words get him off track but kept them in the back of his head during the fight.

Then, he had the last word with a knee to the face that forced referee John McCarthy to intervene in the second.

Just one round earlier, Johnson had badly hurt Gaethje with an uppercut, sending him teetering backward and nearly ending his UFC debut in disaster.

“He almost finished me; ‘Big’ John (McCarthy) said he was going to stop it,” Gaethje said. “I was there. Obviously, when I got smoked, I was a little dazed. But we get punched in the face. But like I said, I’ve got the biggest heart. I am the most violent guy in the division. I’ll prove it time and time again.”

Gaethje is now targeting an interim title fight with Tony Ferguson.

After all the bad blood, Gaethje told Johnson good job and commended him for hanging in as long as he could before the stoppage. Now, he’s ready to take over the rest of the lightweight division.

“On to the next one,” Gaethje said. “That was cool. But I have something to prove here. I’ve been saying I’m the best in the world for a long time, so I will have another fight. Gotta start preparing now.”

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Can Justin Gaethje keep weaponizing his own will? The search for an answer is a thrilling one

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Yep, that’s what a Justin Gaethje fight looks like. It looks like constant pressure, wide-open offense, hurting and being hurt, and never taking a backward step unless it’s a forced, stumbling one. Even then, what would be the prelude to defeat for most fighters is just the very temporary cessation of hostilities for Gaethje.

More than anything, that’s what seemed to get to Michael Johnson in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale in Las Vegas on Friday night.

He hurt Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) plenty but couldn’t escape him. When his legs couldn’t hold him up anymore, Gaethje motioned for him to stand. When he retreated under duress, Gaethje flooded the distance that Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) sought to create.

It was like you could feel him sucking up all the air in the room, just so Johnson would have none left to breathe in the FS1-televised headliner at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The result was a thrilling second-round TKO victory for Gaethje, and it was one he paid for in blood and brain cells. That’s how it happens when you fight the way Gaethje does, using the force of your own will as a weapon. It’s an effective weapon if you’ve got it, and it’s also one that works two ways.

The first is that it provides you with opportunities. Gaethje spent most of the first round exploiting those opportunities as he walked Johnson into the fence, daring him to plant his feet and throw back, hammering him every time he stood still long enough to do so.

It was a pressure game, one that smothers the opponent with offense and forces him to think only about reacting and defending – not about whatever it was he told himself he was going to do here tonight.

But to apply that kind of pressure you’ve got to be willing to withstand some pain, which is where Gaethje’s will comes in. His constant offense provided Johnson with openings to counter, which he did well and with great force at times. Then Gaethje would grab a hold of him, take a breath, and recover.

If he was a cartoon character, here’s where he would have swatted at the little birdies circling his head, chasing them away until his mind had cleared enough for a fresh assault. Somehow, this entire process only took a few seconds.

That’s the other way will can win a fight. Because Johnson? He sees the same things we do. He sees Gaethje taking hard counters on the chin and then shaking off the effects. He sees Gaethje, visibly exhausted with his hands on his knees, yet motioning for Johnson to get up and fight rather than agreeing to get in his guard for a little mutual rest time.

At some point, how could he not wonder what it’s going to take to make a guy like that stop? How could he not at least consider the possibility that he’s not up to it? And that’s how you start to give up. Your hope, your belief in yourself, they begin to crumple around the edges. It’s not a collapse that happens all at once. Maybe it’s not even one you’re capable of doing anything about.

But then, there is that price to pay. Watching Gaethje wallop and wobble his way to victory evokes two primary feelings for the experienced fight fan. They are, in order: 1) an excitement at the overwhelming and enthusiastic brutality of it all, and 2) a knowing dread for where it all leads.

You can’t fight like that for 15 years. You shouldn’t, anyway. The human body and brain just aren’t built for it, which is one of the things that makes it so incredible to watch in the first place.

To watch a fighter like Gaethje in action is to witness a man flinging himself face first into the limitations of the body without regard for consequences. It’s rare, which in turn makes it special. How long can this guy keep this up? How far can he go with it? Is there anyone out there who can withstand and overwhelm the force of his will, or at least hit him hard enough to make him start caring about it?

These are the questions we’ll keep waiting for answers to. The longer we go without getting them, the more exciting the Gaethje journey becomes.

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Tony Ferguson responds to Justin Gaethje – and he'll 'beat that ass' for an interim title

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If Justin Gaethje wants a fight, Tony Ferguson is apparently willing to oblige – with one condition.

In the main event of Friday’s UFC event, The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, former WSOF champ and UFC newcomer Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) scored a dazzling second-round stoppage of Michael Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC).

After the FS1-televised bout at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Gaethje, who’s No. 7 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, made his pitch for a fight with No. 3-ranked Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC), as unlikely as he considered it.

“He’ll probably say I’m not worthy,” said Gaethje, who scored two fight-night bonuses with his “Fight of the Year” contender. “He lost to Michael Johnson; I just finished him. So he’ll be full of (expletive) when he says that.”

More than anything, Gaethje just said he wants to fight for an interim belt while reigning 155-pound champ Conor McGregor focuses on his upcoming mega-boxing fight with Floyd Mayweather. As it turns out, the interim belt is the only condition Ferguson has, as he today tweeted:

After a Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov interim title fight fell apart earlier this year, the UFC worked on booking “El Cucuy” for a bout with Nate Diaz (19-11 MMA, 14-9 UFC) at UFC 213. However, the promotion couldn’t reach terms with Diaz, and Ferguson has been left in limbo since.

As long as an interim title is still in play, it appears Ferguson is open to the fight with Gaethje.

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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After stunning UFC debut win, Justin Gaethje expects Tony Ferguson to dismiss him

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LAS VEGAS – After a “Fight of the Year” candidate in his debut, UFC lightweight Justin Gaethje wants his second octagon fight to be for the interim title against Tony Ferguson.

He doesn’t expect Ferguson to want the same.

“He’ll probably say I’m not worthy,” Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) said after a second-round stoppage of Michael Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) that won him two bonuses and put him in the running for “Fight of the Year.” “He lost to Michael Johnson; I just finished him. So he’ll be full of (expletive) when he says that.”

Regardless of how Ferguson responds to the callout, Gaethje plans to continue his conquest of the lightweight division. He estimates he’s one or two steps from facing off with lightweight champ Conor McGregor. If Ferguson demurs, he’ll take a fight with McGregor foil Nate Diaz.

“Whoever gets me closer to an interim title right now,” Gaethje told MMAjunkie. “McGregor’s not here. So I’m going to get that interim title on my waist, and when he comes back, pressure.”

McGregor isn’t usually one to take in UFC debuts unless one of his teammates is fighting. But he found the time to watch Gaethje’s fight despite being in the middle of training camp for a boxing showdown with Floyd Mayweather.

“That was a good contest,” McGregor tweeted. “Two fighters, fighting.”

Quite the endorsement for the first-timer.

“I’m in his weight class – he better be watching,” Gaethje said. “He has a big target on his back, and I’m aiming for it. So I expected him to watch. Thankful for the credit, obviously. He’s a fighter, I’m a fighter, and real recognizes real. I literally put it on the line, so you have to respect that.”

Ferguson has yet to weigh in on Gaethje’s debut.

Gaethje ventured if the UFC finds it suitable to put him in an interim title fight in time to greet McGregor when he returns, all the better. But for now, he’ll wait to see what the promotion has in store.

“One at a time,” he said. “I just want to know who’s next so I can have a path and a target.”

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie