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Justin
Gaethje
will have the opportunity to wrap lightweight
championship gold around his waist if he defeats Tony
Ferguson
at UFC 249.

However, Gaethje doesn’t put much stock in interim championship
hardware. He recognizes that Khabib
Nurmagomedov
is the reigning 155-pound king, and defeating
Ferguson will only provide him the opportunity to defeat “The
Eagle.”

“When they wrap that belt around me, it won’t be the destination,”
Gaethje told
ESPN
. “It will be a map to the top. That’s who I’m looking at.
It’ll be nice to have a belt wrapped around, but for me, it won’t
mean the same. It won’t mean I’m a world champion in the UFC.

“When I beat Tony, I’m fighting Khabib next. That’s what I’m here
for, to be the best in the world. And when I fight him, I want him
to try and kill me, because I won’t respect him if he doesn’t.”

Gaethje accepted the fight with Ferguson after Nurmagomedov was
stranded in Russia as a result of travel restrictions imposed to
combat the coronavirus pandemic. The former World Series of
Fighting champion was initially slated to face Ferguson on April
18, but Disney and ESPN executives requested that the promotion not
go forward with its plan to hold the event on tribal land in
California.

Gaethje recently posted photos following a training session that
included the likes of coach Trevor Wittman, UFC welterweight
champion Kamaru
Usman
and UFC lightweight Beneil
Dariush
. The Colorado native made it clear that the room was
limited to no more than 10 people.

The chance remains that the pandemic could force UFC 249 to be
postponed again, but for now, “The Highlight” is preparing as
though he has a fight in a little more than two weeks.

“I have to be 100 percent confident,” Gaethje said. “I was 100
percent confident it was going to happen on April 18, because if
I’m not, I pull my foot off the gas.”


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