Justin Gaethje is the new UFC interim lightweight champion, but he’s trying not to view himself in that light.
Gaethje (22-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) defeated former interim titleholder Tony Ferguson in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 249 event, which took place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena Jacksonville, Fla. He stopped Ferguson in the fifth round to claim the interim strap and likely get the next shot at champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Although Gaethje had an impressive night in ending Ferguson’s 12-fight wining streak and earning gold, the 31-year-old is not going to let his feat get to his head.
“It’s good, it feels great, (but) that’s the competitor in me and that’s the mindset I have to have to face the challenge that is Khabib,” Gatheje told reporters at the post-fight press conference. “I can’t think of myself as the champion because for one I’m not and for two Khabib is still there.
“Again, I can’t beome complacent. People think they’re unbeatable, that’s what will kill you in this sport. I’m human, if you shake my brain I will go to sleep and he almost did at the end of the second (round), but the good thing is that I’m fighting humans, so I just perform.”
Gaethje was dropped on the second round by a nasty uppercut from Ferguson. Shortly after he was dropped the round ended.
Gaethje recovered well and battered Ferguson for the rest of the fight referee to waved off the action. Gaethje is happy with his performance and even happier for the people that support his career.
“I’m a competitor I’ve been competing since I was four years old,” Gaethje said. “I’m a showoff, I know how many people were watching and it makes me happy knowing how good I made people feel, that feels great. It’s pure exhilaration, just screaming. Not just in this country, but all over the World. I get messages from all over the World saying how they’re my fans. Humans recognize effort and I give max effort every single time.”
Gaethje is not thinking of a date for his title unification bout with Nurmagomedov. For now he’ll enjoy his UFC 249 win and then asses what’s next.