MANILA, Philippines – Justin Gaethje knows he’s about to face a different kind of beast in the octagon.
The 31-year old fighter (21-2) heads into the fight of his life as he faces Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (26-3) in UFC 249 for the interim lightweight crown on Saturday, May 9 (Sunday, May 10, Philippine time) at VyStar Veterans Memorial Areana in Jacksonville, Florida.
“I think he’s No. 1,” said Gaethje, noting that Ferguson ranks up there among all his opponents.
“He’s a quirky dude, he punches at weird times, he comes from weird angles. It’s a puzzle and I’m excited to go out there and use my skills set that I have been working on my whole life to try figure out this puzzle.”
Ranked No.4 in the lightweight division, Gaethje had faced tough foes in the past including Donald Cerrone, Edson Barboza, and Eddie Alvarez.
But his upcoming bout may be the biggest yet as he tries to move a step closer to be the best in his division.
“This is everything,” Gaethje said. “I’m fighting for my life, for everything that I’ve worked for my life. This is the culmination of events that has led me to here.
“(For me) It’s one day at a time, one fighter at a time so I never thought that I would be here. I’m gonna go out there and perform. That’s what I do. I’m gonna go out there and try to turn off his lights like I do every single fight.”
Gaethje was a last-minute replacement for reigning lightweight titlist Khabib Nurmagomedov, who withdrew from the fight due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite his limited preparation, the No.4 fighter promised to give his maximum effort and deliver an explosive performance.
“I’ve been training my ass off for 5 weeks now,” Gaethje said. I’ve been pushing hard I’m ready to go out there and go to work.
Unlike Ferguson, who downplayed a possible matchup against Khabib, Gaethje is more than willing to face the Russian champion if he gets the interim title.
“That’s all I dream about,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to prove that I’m the best.
“(Khabib and Tony) got some very personal issues, I have nothing to do with that. But I’m excited. We’re fighting for the right to represent the United States of America against Russia’s best.”
But before that, Gaethje knows he needs to overcome the power of Ferguson.
“My life does not exist after May 9th right now,” Gaethje said. “Tony’s one of the best and I’m one of the best. I’m prepared for all aspects of this game.
“How do you beat Tony? I don’t know. I’m going to find out.” – Rappler.com