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Justin Gaethje deserves his shot at UFC gold, but the world needs Khabib vs Ferguson first

Mauricio Botero Restrepo
Justin Gaethje deserves his shot at UFC gold, but the world needs Khabib vs Ferguson first

Saturday night in Vancouver left no doubt. Justin Gaethje absolutely deserves his shot at the UFC lightweight title, but only AFTER Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson finally face off inside the octagon. Gaethje‘s irresistible combination of power punches and thumping leg kicks, along with his collegiate All-American wrestling credentials, make him a nightmare matchup for anyone at 155 pounds.

Mauricio Botero Restrepo

But his over-eagerness to get himself into firefights inside the octagon has cost him crucial matchups in recent years, with Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez both earning stoppage wins against “The Highlight”.

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But now, with Alvarez plying his trade in Asia with ONE Championship, and following Poirier‘s failed attempt at dethroning Khabib in Abu Dhabi at UFC 242, it’s Gaethje‘s turn

Following those losses to Alvarez and Poirier, Gaethje has rebounded spectacularly, with Saturday night’s finish of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone completing a hat-trick of successive first-round TKO finishes, joining his stoppage wins over James Vick and Edson Barboza to build an excellent case for a shot at the gold

But while Gaethje‘s ultimate aim is to one day hold the UFC lightweight title, even he recognizes that before he can challenge for the strap there’s some significant unfinished business that needs to be attended to first, namely the oft-booked, but yet-to-be-completed, matchup between Khabib and Ferguson

Also on rt.com ‘The Irishman’s retired, I want a REAL fighter!’ Gaethje calls for title shot after stopping Cerrone The pair have been matched up four times already, only for illness and injury to result in the bout being cancelled. But the time is now here for the UFC to get the fight booked. It’s the biggest fight the UFC can make right now, it’s a fight that has been literally years in the making, and now the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been

It’s a far cry from the time when Conor McGregor held the lightweight belt, when the title – and the division – was put on hold as he chased other challenges, namely welterweight bouts with Nate Diaz and a megabucks boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. It earned McGregor a truckload of cash, but left one of the most talented divisions in the UFC without an active champion

Now, with Khabib returning from suspension to defeat Poirier, the UFC has a champion who is in a position to fight and defend his belt. And in Ferguson they have a consensus number-one contender and former interim champion who, in a fair and just world, should have faced Khabib already

Also on rt.com ‘Tiramisu needs an ass-whooping!’ Khabib Nurmagomedov & Tony Ferguson top trash talk quotes And thanks to Gaethje‘s resounding win on Saturday night, the UFC now has the next man in line. He’s a guaranteed show-stealer, he’s one of the most exciting men to ever pull on a set of four-ounce gloves, and he’s got his sights on the winner of Khabib vs Ferguson. Whichever man wins that fight, they’re in for another cracking matchup when they face Gaethje

The UFC‘s matchmakers should be feeling pretty blessed right now, because they have not just got a colossal matchup just waiting to be booked, they’ve also got a fan-favorite contender waiting in the wings to face the winner

After a couple of years of stagnation at the top of the division, the UFC‘s lightweight class is now back to full health, and the fans will be the overall winners

By Simon Head