The UFC lightweight division might be the most talent stacked weight class in the sport but ever since Conor McGregor became champion in 2016, there’s been no clear path for new contenders to earn a title shot.
Immediately after winning the belt, McGregor went on a hiatus from fighting as he pursued a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather before taking more time off while negotiating with the UFC on a new contract.
McGregor also took criticism for suggesting a trilogy against Nate Diaz and then lately being attached to a rumored bout against Mayweather inside the Octagon.
The UFC finally cleared up the divisional confusion by crowning Khabib Nurmagomedov as the new undisputed lightweight champion this past weekend when he defeated Al Iaquinta by unanimous decision. Afterwards, Nurmagomedov vowed to bring normalcy back to the division by defending his belt and staying active.
Then again, Nurmagomedov also called out former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre for his next fight, which means he wouldn’t be facing former interim champion Tony Ferguson or McGregor in his first title defense.
“It looks like there’s a more clear path to the title now that Khabib won it, but after his fight, he talked s–t about Conor not defending his belt and then he says he wants to go fight GSP. So he’s doing the same exact thing if he does that,” top 10 ranked lightweight Justin Gaethje said on “UFC Tonight” when expressing his frustration over the continued problems atop the lightweight division.
Of course, St-Pierre already shot down the idea of facing Nurmagomedov should he return to fight again, but still Gaethje believes that the undefeated Russian was looking to create the same kind of problems that McGregor did when he was champion.
That said, Gaethje does view Nurmagomedov as the legitimate champion at 155 pounds and he’s anxious to earn his way to a title shot so he can test him in the cage.
“Right now I’ve got to go with Khabib,” Gaethje said when asked who is the real champion in the UFC lightweight division. “Khabib has proven himself to be the best in the world on paper. He has the real belt right now. Undefeated, 26-0.
“I think I saw something where he’s only fought two top 10 guys in his UFC career. I don’t know. I went two for two in the top five so that’s something that needs to be taken down.”
Gaethje will look to take another step towards that goal when he faces Dustin Poirier in the main event at UFC on FOX 29 on Saturday night from Glendale, Arizona.