Putting on a ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate in your UFC debut is pretty good way to land on everybody’s radar and that’s exactly what Justin Gaethje accomplished with his second round TKO against Michael Johnson on Friday night.
Moving to 18-0 in his career, Gaethje made a strong statement in his first UFC appearance by taking out the No. 5 ranked lightweight in an absolute war where the two fighters landed an incredible 195 strikes in less than 10 minutes.
With the win, Gaethje will undoubtedly find himself in the top five rankings at lightweight next week, which means he’s potentially only a fight or two at most away from a title shot. For his part, Gaethje isn’t wasting any time hunting for UFC gold after he revealed who he wanted to fight next on the FS1 Post Fight show.
“I want [Tony] Ferguson,” Gaethje said. “That’s who I want. Plain and simple. I’ve got to take out the best in America and then I’m going to take out the best in the world. I want to be the best in the world and I want to represent America when I do that so I better take out everybody from here first.”
Hey @justin_gaethje, who do you want next?
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) July 8, 2017
Gaethje also responded to a message from fellow lightweight contender Kevin Lee, who chimed in via Twitter after his second round finish on Friday night.
Being mentally tough only will get you so far in this game. I'll break Gaethje physically
— Kevin MTP Lee (@MoTownPhenom) July 8, 2017
Gaethje seemed open to the idea of facing Lee in his next fight, but a matchup with Ferguson while potentially crowning an interim lightweight champion interests him a lot more.
“Whatever, who’s next? I want my equal. He is American and I said I wanted to take the Americans out first so if he wants it,” Gaethje said about Lee.
“I’d rather fight Ferguson. Let [Edson] Barboza, he’s hurt right now, let him fight Conor [McGregor] when he comes back, I’ll take Ferguson for the interim belt for now.”
Of course, Ferguson has been rumored for a matchup later this year with undefeated Russian wrecking machine Khabib Nurmagomedov but the fight is far from signed so anything is possible.
One thing Gaethje guaranteed is that no matter who he faces next, he’s only going to continue putting on those non-stop, action packed performances like what he unleashed against Johnson.
“I will never quit. If you don’t put me to sleep, I will be coming forward,” Gaethje said. “I will be kicking your legs. I guarantee he’s not walking for the next couple days. He’s not gonna sleep right for the next couple days. Everybody that fights me, that’s how they walked out.”
For his debut effort at “The Ultimate Fighter” season 25 finale, Gaethje earned a whopping $100,000 bonus for ‘Fight of the Night’ and ‘Performance of the Night’ and it sounds like he plans on cashing plenty of checks now that he’s finally arrived in the UFC.
“My nickname’s “The Highlight” for a reason,” Gaethje said. “Every single time I step into the Octagon that’s what I do.
“I’m a promoter’s wet dream. What can I say? As dirty as that sounds, that’s what I am.”