Justin Gaethje wants no part of the interim lightweight championship.
It’s the “interim” part that the UFC fighter based out of Colorado has a problem with.
Gaethje has the chance to become the undisputed UFC lightweight champion on Saturday. That’s when he faces Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 on Fight Island.
Here’s the best part: DraftKings is running a special promotion for the title fight.
Those in the Colorado sports betting market who are first-time users of the online sportsbook have the chance to pick either fighter, bet $1 and have it boosted to $100.
So if Gaethje wins, you win.
What: UFC 254: “Khabib vs. Gaethje”
When: 10 a.m. MST prelims; 12 p.m. main card on Saturday
Where: UFC Fight Island, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island
Watch: Prelims on ESPN2/ESPN+; main card on ESPN+
UFC 254 odds
If Gaethje, and you, win on Saturday, he will have done so as the underdog.
The betting apps in Colorado have come to a consensus that Nurmagomedov is the favorite.
Given that the Russian fighter has yet to lose a bout in his career, you can see why.
Nurmagomedov enters The Octagon at 28-0.
But this isn’t the first time Gaethje has had to overcome the odds.
As he said in this remarkable video put out by the UFC:
“I never thought I would be a MMA fighter for a career. I have a human services degree. I wanted to be a social worker. I never dreamed of being where I’m at now. I had five amateur fights before I trained, sparred, worked with a coach. And I had no idea how to throw a punch, throw a kick. Although I’ve worked hard since I was 4-years-old, in hindsight, yes, I’ve always been on the path to fight.”
|UFC 254 odds||BetMGM||DraftKings||FanDuel|
|Lightweight title bout||Khabib Nurmagomedov -358|
Justin Gaethje +275
|Khabib Nurmagomedov -335|
Justin Gaethje +270
|Khabib Nurmagomedov -340
Justin Gaethje +260
|Middleweight bout||Robert Whitaker -110 Jared Cannonier -110||Robert Whitaker -112 Jared Cannonier -112||Robert Whitaker +102 Jared Cannonier -124|
|Heavyweight bout||Alexander Volkov -182 Walt Harris +150||Alexander Volkov -182 Walt Harris +145||Alexander Volkov -184 Walt Harris +148|
|Middleweight bout||Jacob Malkoun +225 Phillip Hawes -278||Jacob Malkoun +205 Phillip Hawes -265||Jacob Malkoun +220 Phillip Hawes -270|
|Women's flyweight bout||Lauren Murphy -239 Liliya Shakirova +195||Lauren Murphy -240 Liliya Shakirova +188||Lauren Murphy -240 Liliya Shakirova +198|
|Lightheavy weight bout||Magomed Ankalaev -313 Ion Cutelaba +250||Magomed Ankalaev -335 Ion Cutelaba +250||Magomed Ankalaev -310 Ion Cutelaba +250|
Gaethje is a complete fighter
And it’s not like Gaethje has some putrid record either.
Gaethje, who was a Div. I All-American at the University of Northern Colorado, enters the fight at 23-2.
Gaethje isn’t just a wrestler, either. Even though he’s been wrestling since he could walk.
All seven of his UFC fights have ended by knockout.
In fact, Gathje’s most recent win over Tony Ferguson in May was the first knockout that didn’t come in the first round. Gaethje finished Ferguson in the fifth round via TKO.
That’s why Gaethje has the nickname “The Highlight.”
He’s widely regarded as one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC.
Nurmagomedov fighting for his father
Yet Gaethje has not faced a fighter like Nurmagomedov.
And not that Nurmagomedov needs extra motivation for this fight, but he has it — he lost his father earlier this year.
As he told ESPN:
“I have only one thing why I’m here. Why I need this fight? I’m already one of the greatest. I have money. I have name. I have business. I have family, kids. Why I need this fight? One thing. I love competition. I love this. That’s why I’m here.”
Great fight on the docket?
What we have now is a recipe for an incredible fight.
For those who are betting on the UFC and taking part in the promotion, or just fans of the sport.
Two fighters with the drive and talent to become the best.
As Gaethje’s coach Trevor Wittman said:
“His old purpose was to be the most exciting fighter out there. And I think he nailed that. But I don’t think he wanted that purpose any more. And I asked him, ‘What’s your purpose?’ He said he wanted to be a champion. I looked him in his eyes and asked him, ‘Do you believe you can be a champion?’ He said yes. There was no stutter to that.”
In the words of Bruce Buffer, “It’s time.”