As lame as UFC 291’s BMF gimmick is — and it is extremely lame — if any man deserves to hold the distinction as being the Baddest, it feels appropriate for that man to be Justin Gaethje.

Why? Because Justin Gaethje has been nothing but a bad motherf—ker for the entirety of his MMA career; from racking up a 17-0 record with 5 defenses of the World Series of Fighting Lightweight Championship; to his ballsy UFC debut against Michael Johnson, to his battles of attrition against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, and all the way through the run that saw him become interim UFC Lightweight Champion and a hallmark of the division.

All throughout, Justin Gaethje has proven to be one of the nastiest names to see standing on the other side of the Octagon because of his ability to absorb punishment while giving it right back tenfold.

As far as dogs staying in the fight go, Justin Gaethje is Top Dog. There is truly nothing that compares to him.

(RIP Sinéad)

Fighters weren’t feeling the elevation at UFC 291

Personally, it’s just a relief that Saturday’s UFC 291 went down as well as it did. The last time UFC was in Salt Lake City, at UFC 278, there were multiple decisions and a main event that saw Leon Edwards huffing and puffing before finding a way to blow Kamaru Usman’s house (and head) off with under a minute left in a five round fight.

This time, the card was mostly finishes. Bobby Green punished Tony Ferguson and possibly sent him into retirement with an arm-triangle choke. Derrick Lewis ran through Marcos Rogério de Lima so fast, he needed to take his shorts off just to cool down (or at least I hope that’s what was happening).

And the ultimate highlight came courtesy of “The Highlight,” rematching Poirier 5 years after their first fight, avenging a loss with a picture perfect head kick reminiscent of the kick Leon landed on Kamaru last August.

Maybe there is something magical about Salt Lake City. Maybe it’s moments like this that is why UFC returned to Utah so soon after their last visit.

Or maybe it was because Ari Emmanuel told Dana to bring the show back there because he’s friends with the owner of The Utah Jazz. I dunno. Hard to say.

Either way, that explains why Karl Malone got such good seats.

Oh and, speaking of Dana, where was he on Saturday? Was he really on vacation during UFC 291? He didn’t ditch his own company’s pay-per-view to go watch the Errol Spence-Terrence Crawford fight, did he? He wouldn’t dare violate the sanctity of the BMF Championship Belt that way, would he?

Justin Gaethje moves up slightly in the queue after UFC 291

Who’s to say? All that’s for certain is that Gaethje knocked out Poirier and won…a belt that might earn him a title shot?

Wait, didn’t he already win one of those? And then he fought for the lightweight championship in two of his next three fights and lost both times? And now he’s potentially waiting on the winner of the main event of UFC 294 in October between the man who is the protégé of the first champion he lost to against the second champion he lost to?

Um, yay for Justin Gaethje?

Also, does the BMF Championship Belt come with championship pay or pay-per-view points? Maybe he’d be better off waiting for Conor McGregor to get his USADA exemption…

I know everyone was excited for the Poirier rematch just for the guarantee that the fight would deliver (and it did) but we all knew there weren’t any stakes attached to it besides finding out whose late career resurgence was going to stall out first, right?

Justin Gaethje (blue gloves) reacts to defeating Dustin Poirier (red gloves) during UFC 291 at Delta Center. Salt Lake City Delta Center Utah USA, EDITORIAL USE ONLY PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxONLY Copyright: xJeffxSwingerx 20230729_szo_si8_0366
IMAGO | USA Today Network

BMF is fun but still pointless

For me, it was more exciting seeing Alex Pereira get a (controversial) win over Jan Błachowicz at UFC 291, watching him inject some life into a chaotic light heavyweight division in the same way he injected life into an, at the time, lifeless middleweight division.

Don’t get me wrong, watching Justin Gaethje fight is always fun. It just didn’t feel like he was fighting for much here other than getting to jump in line for the belt ahead of Poirier for once. For all we know, Justin Gaethje will get his shot next year and Poirier will get the one after that. Nothing really changes as far as the weight class goes.

At least the action was fun while it lasted at UFC 291. Plus, we have a new BMF Champion Belt-holder. I look forward to seeing him never defend the belt, just like the last BMF Champion Belt-holder.

That’s what BMF’s do, right? Anoint themselves as such and then never make a serious effort to prove it? What a great gimmick. Thanks for making this totally necessary “title” fight, UFC!

Oh and see you in Dallas next week, Dana. You know what the real BMF fight is.

About the author
Evan Zivin
Evan Zivin

Evan Zivin is a writer, having joined Bloody Elbow in 2023. He's been providing his unique takes on the sport of MMA since 2013, previously working as a featured columnist for 411Mania. Evan has followed MMA and professional wrestling for most of his life. His joy is in finding the stories and characters within all combat sports and presenting them in a serious yet light-hearted way.

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