Former interim champion Justin Gaethje will return to action on July 29th at UFC 291. “The Highlight” will headline the card against Dustin Poirier in a rematch, with the now-vacant ‘baddest motherf–r’ title on the line.
In a recent interview with Cageside Press, the 34-year-old Gaethje shared his thoughts about the title he’s fighting for and how he was made to agree to it.
How Justin Gaethje agreed to BMF title fight
As he usually does in his interviews, Justin Gaethje gave candid responses on this one. With regards to the Poirier rematch, he admitted to initially rejecting the offer for a five-rounder.
“(The UFC) called me and they said ‘Do you want to fight Poirier on July 29th? Five rounds.’ And I was, like, ‘F—k that, I don’t want to fight for five rounds if I don’t have to.’ There’s no reason for me, I get paid the same, no matter what.
“So I’d rather fight three rounds, and I’d rather fight in Boston (at UFC 292) on August 19th. It gives me three more weeks to get ready. But I was totally in on… you get $25K extra for a main event, I was like, ‘Screw that.’”
The UFC, Gaethje says, then sweetened the pot with the title offer.
“So they came back, and they were like, ‘What about for this (BMF) belt?’ We came to terms on payments, on what I’d be comfortable making.”
What Justin Gaethje thinks of the BMF title
The UFC’s ‘BMF’ title was introduced in 2019, upon the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of superstar Nate Diaz during a press-conference. The belt debuted at UFC 244, with Diaz and Jorge Masvidal as its first contenders. “Gamebred” won the title via doctor stoppage.
Like a good number of people, Justin Gaethje didn’t see any value in being a “BMF” champion at first. But after looking at it from a business standpoint, it eventually made sense to him.
“Honestly, my true assessment, like when Masvidal and Diaz fought for it, I was, like, ’This is stupid.’ And I still think it’s kind of stupid. However, to the fans that say it’s stupid, I say that it’s ultimately the UFC giving one more fighter one more opportunity to win and to gain an opportunity to get pay-per-view points.
“This belt — just like interim belts — on paper, are championships. You are a champion in the eyes of the UFC. And when you are a champion in the eyes of the UFC, you’re paid different.
“So to people that say it’s stupid, I say it’s the UFC literally throwing a bone. And we always ask them to throw a bone, and they never do.”
At the end of the day, Justin Gaethje is grateful for the opportunity.
“I’m thankful that it is an opportunity that I get to fight for, especially since there’s only one in the world. I think that’s pretty cool. It’s a cool-looking belt.”
Announced fights for UFC 291
On paper, UFC 291 is shaping up to be a stacked event. The co-main event right before the Dustin Poirier-Justin Gaethje fight features the light heavyweight debut of former middleweight champion Alex Pereira, as he takes on former champion Jan Blachowicz. Right before it is the return of Tony Ferguson, who aims to break a five-fight losing streak against Bobby Green.
Paulo Costa, who last fought in September, seemed to have finally sorted out his issues with the UFC. “Borrachinha” will face four-time combat sambo world champion Ikram Aliskerov, who is coming off a first-round knockout win over Phil Hawes at UFC 288.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson also returns to action against Michel Pereira, while “the Black Beast” Derrick Lewis looks to get back on the winning track against Marcos Rogerio De Lima.
UFC 291 takes place at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City.
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