2011 has been a big year for Colorado lightweight Justin Gaethje. A win in his final amateur bout followed by back-to-back wins to start out his pro career has helped Gaethje quickly establish himself as one of the area’s top up-and-coming talents.
Gaethje tells MMAWeekly.com that it’s his decision to begin working with one of the state’s premier fight teams, which has really helped him take the steps needed to become a world class fighter.
“This year I started training at Grudge and they’ve really been helping me out,” he said. “I’m done with school, so I’m able to move down and will be down at Grudge every day. I’ll be able to take classes now – boxing classes and kickboxing classes – and become more complete.”
In particular, Gaethje credits his striking coach for his biggest improvement.
“Trevor Wittman and I have been getting in a lot of time together and he’s really helped me out with my combinations and footwork a lot,” he said. “My boxing has come a long way working with him.
“I’ve been able to use that instead of my wrestling even more. That’s what’s been the biggest help is not just relying on my wrestling as much.”
Its Gaethje’s growth in his striking game that he feels could be the deciding factor in his upcoming fight on Saturday night in Broomfield, Colo., when he takes on Donnie Bell at Ring of Fire 42.
“It depends on who can dominate the clinch, because I know that’s what he likes to do, and I like to do,” said Gaethje. “He’s really wild, so I’ve got to keep my hands in and not get wild also.
“Like I said, I’ve been working a lot on my stand-up, so I feel comfortable on my feet and hopefully I can keep it standing and get a nice knockout.”
Having already provided a wealth of talent to the top tier shows, Colorado’s next product could be Gaethje. He doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself, however, as Gaethje points out, he’s just getting started.
“I’m still new to the game, and to be honest, I don’t know how it works, really,” he chuckled. “If they call, fine; I’m just going to keep looking for big fights.
“I’m not one of those guys who say they’re going to fight in the UFC next year; I just want to (continue) moving forward. We’ve been talking about fighting in different states or Canada next year and just look for new opportunities.”