Unfortunately, he wasn’t in consideration. He had lost to Nurmagomedov this past October, and with such a recent result, the UFC opted instead to book a fight between Charles Oliveira and former Bellator champion Michael Chandler.
As upsetting as it was to lose out on that opportunity, Gaethje knows the promotion can’t possibly pass him over a second time, especially if he tears through Chandler in their fight on Saturday night at UFC 268.
“That’s my belief,” Gaethje said about being next in line for a title shot. “I’m No. 2. Who else? There’s absolutely nobody else. If not, we riot.”
Of course, Gaethje had to contend with questions about potentially losing out on a title fight after Islam Makhachev wrapped up his ninth consecutive victory at UFC 267 this past weekend. Following a first-round submission against Dan Hooker in Abu Dhabi, Makhachev was asked by UFC color commentator Daniel Cormier, who also happens to be his longtime teammate, if he believed that win was convincing enough to jump over Gaethje in order to fight for the lightweight championship next.
That didn’t sit well with Gaethje, who blasted Cormier during the broadcast. At the UFC 268 media day, he explained why he thought that was so unprofessional.
You brought my name up. It wasn’t going to come out of anybody’s mouth.
— Justin Gaethje (@Justin_Gaethje) October 30, 2021
“[It was] incredibly biased,” Gaethje said when addressing Cormier’s commentary. “At the end of the day, I love Cormier. I felt it was my job that night and call it out, cause that’s what I saw. Outside of that, it doesn’t matter.
“I think he knows that he should be in an unbiased mindset when he’s doing this, and that probably, I would hope, that’s important to him.”
While Cormier counts Makhachev as a friend and teammate, Gaethje actually shares the same manager as the Dagestani native, who has been earning so much attention lately thanks to his dominant run through the division. Known as one of the most prominent managers in the sport, Dominance MMA owner Ali Abdelaziz represents Gaethje, Makhachev and Beneil Dariush, who all occupy prominent spots in the lightweight rankings.
As difficult as it might seem to work with so many fighters in competition with each other, Gaethje has full faith in Abdelaziz working hard to ensure he earns the title shot after UFC 268, just like his manager is going to battle for Makhachev and Dariush the same way.
“I’ve never talked to him about it,” Gaethje said. “Never brought it up, never had it brought up to me. He works for me and he works for them, but they’re different businesses. He needs to run each one accordingly. If I would have seen him be like, ‘yeah D.C., I agree!’ I probably would have been pretty f*cking pissed off, but he knows that wouldn’t be the professional thing to do.
“He’s a great manager. He’s professional. Loyalty runs a long ways. I’ve probably been with him the longest, so we’ll see how this goes.”
For his part, Abdelaziz told MMA Fighting prior to UFC 268 that he absolutely believes Gaethje should be the next person in line for a lightweight title shot and he’ll absolutely tell the promotion the same thing.
“I think Justin Gaethje, if he beats Chandler and I’m sure he will, he’s next for the title,” Abdelaziz said. “Justin Gaethje should have been fighting for the title but I understand the promoter Dana White want to erase the Khabib phenomenon and you can’t have two guys who fought Khabib, coming off a loss fighting for the title.
“All Justin has to go ahead, put the lights out of this little guy [Michael Chandler] and he’s going to be next for the title.”
Abdelaziz voiced similar support during the UFC 268 media day, and Gaethje trusts his manager will make just as much noise if he’s somehow passed over for a lightweight title opportunity.
“[A title shot is next] or we riot, and he’s right next to me rioting,” Gaethje said. “It is what it is. I trust that if I was to get snubbed this time, that he would go to war with me like we need to.”