For now, Justin Gaethje is occupying his time coaching a team on The Ultimate Fighter 26. The former WSOF lightweight champion thrilled fans in his UFC debut in a fight of the year candidate against Michael Johnson, ultimately taking the bout via second-round TKO. And now if he can defeat fellow coach Eddie Alvarez, he might be able to net the biggest fight a lightweight can get.
He spoke about a possible possible fight with UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor at a recent media luncheon (transcribed by MMA Fighting):
“McGregor, when he comes back, he’s gonna pick whoever he wants. As the competitor that I see him being, he’s gonna want the most dangerous guy. When I finish Eddie Alvarez quickly, that’s gonna be me.
“On paper and on TV, I’m the most dangerous, violent guy in this division. Most hittable guy. So that’s probably someone he’d want to fight. As long as I knock out Eddie Alvarez quickly, that’s my goal — to get that fight.”
He also made it clear that McGregor isn’t going to find much appeal in competing against the men fighting for an interim lightweight title at UFC 216:
“[McGregor] has to come back and he’s not gonna want to fight Tony Ferguson or Kevin Lee,” Gaethje said. “Being the crazy person I am, Eddie Alvarez and Conormake me nervous and make me lose sleep at night. I don’t lose any sleep when I think about Tony Ferguson or Kevin Lee. Not saying they can’t beat me or wouldn’t beat me. They just don’t do it for me. I would want someone who did it for me. It would be Khabib [Nurmagomedov] or Conor. I would love to go to Ireland.”
McGregor, who is coming off his very lucrative foray into boxing against Floyd Mayweather Jr., has only mentioned one name for a possible return so far – Nate Diaz. But Gaethje thinks he could be in the conversation:
“He loves it,” Gaethje said of McGregor. “He f—king loves it and he’s crazy like I am about this sport. It has to do it for him. Obviously the pay has to be big, he’s a businessman. Smart businessman. But I don’t think that Ferguson or Lee would do it for him.”
The Ultimate Fighter 26 debuted last night on Fox Sports 1, and features a women’s flyweight tournament to crown the new division’s first champion.