There are two names that are of interest to Justin Gaethje for his next fight.
Fully recovered from nose surgery, Gaethje sees Charles Oliveira and Rafael Fiziev as options for his return to the Octagon.
“They both make just as much sense to me right now,” said Gaethje at a UFC 281 media day (video provided by MMA Fighting). “I need two wins, doesn’t matter who. They’re gonna be big fights. I don’t wanna fight just anybody, obviously. But, yeah. Both of those guys are possible fights for my next fight. But, again, my job is to stay out of my emotions. If I think about those fights, I get emotional because that’s who we are as humans. I have to put that responsibility on the people that I trust, which is my coach, my manager, and they’re gonna pick the best fight for me, whoever that is.”
Gaethje is familiar with Oliveira, who he fought at UFC 274 this past May. With the UFC lightweight championship on the line — for Gaethje only as Oliveira missed weight and was stripped — the ‘Highlight’ was submitted by first-round rear-naked choke. Though he fell short to ‘Do Bronx,’ Gaethje would welcome a rematch now that Oliveira has suffered a loss to Islam Makhachev at UFC 280 in October.
Following his fifth-round TKO of Rafael Dos Anjos, Fiziev set his sights on Gaethje once both men recovered from their respective nose surgeries. ‘Ataman’ hoped to have the fight by the end of this year, but Gaethje was clear on not returning until 2023.
Alongside his potential opponents, Gaethje also revealed when and where he would prefer to return: the rumored pay-per-view event expected to feature the trilogy between his teammate Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards.
“Right now, it’s trying to figure out when I want to fight again,” said Gaethje. “I really want to be on the card that Kamaru’s on. It sounds like it’s gonna be in March. I don’t know if it’s gonna be in London. I had a huge fight last fight, I got hit really hard. One thing we have over other sports is the ability to take some time off. Every fight with the UFC has been absolutely huge, but my last three or four fights have been the biggest fights that you can be in.
“So we just gotta take time,” continued Gaethje. “So I just been taking time. I got my nose fixed. You know when you get a concussion, then you should take some time off. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been enjoying it. It’s really fast and then really slow. I’m enjoying the slow part, but I’m definitely missing the fast part now.”
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