Justin Gaethje seems to fight at his best when his opponents bring out the worst in him.
Take for instance his UFC debut when Michael Johnson was taking shots at Gaethje during every press conference and interview. He disparaged Gaethje’s resume as the former World Series of Fighting Champion and Johnson felt like his speed and power would be too much for an opponent he branded reckless.
Gaethje took all of that and spewed it back out at Johnson during their fight, which ended up as an absolute war. In the end, Gaethje earned the knockout thus silencing any criticisms that Johnson had about him.
Over the past few weeks, Gaethje has been feeling a slight touch of déjà vu as James Vick has been spouting similar rhetoric. He’s more or less said that Gaethje is a punching bag with eyes and called him the ‘Homer Simpson of MMA’ thanks to the way he uses his head to block punches.
Much like the Johnson fight, Gaethje has been absorbing all of the insults and he plans on unleashing them in the same way when he clashes with Vick on Saturday night.
“For James Vick to sit here and say I’m a ‘B’ league fighter and I don’t deserve the accolades that I’m getting — the bonuses, the main events — the guy just doesn’t get it,” Gaethje told MMAWeekly. “I’m painting a pretty clear picture of what pure effort can achieve in this sport and if you don’t want to pay attention, that’s not my problem.”
Vick has promised to hand Gaethje his third straight defeat after he suffered back-to-back losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier in consecutive fights.
To his credit, Gaethje was absolutely in both of those fights while dishing out a ton of punishment to Alvarez and Poirier before he eventually fell. Gaethje has nothing but the utmost respect for Alvarez and Poirier because they both came at him at their very best because each of them knew that’s what it would take to win.
In Vick’s case, Gaethje can’t help but wonder if the former “Ultimate Fighter” contender isn’t just talking himself into an ass kicking because he thinks this will be a walk in the park.
“I wake up everyday telling myself James Vick is better than me, that way I get up and I’m scared and I want to work and I want to get better,” Gaethje said. “I had a lot of respect for Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier. I have zero respect for James Vick. I don’t respect the game he plays. I don’t respect the fight he fights. So no, I don’t think he’s nowhere near the level of Dustin Poirier or Eddie Alvarez. He’d be a fool to think he is.
“James Vick has woken up everyday thinking he’s better than me, thinking this is an easy fight. I can’t wait to see the shock on his face when he realizes that’s not the case.”
While he may not like Vick or the antics he’s pulled in the lead up to their fight, Gaethje won’t make the same mistake of his opponent by thinking this will be an easy night at the office.
In his mind, Gaethje knows that at his best he’s a far superior fighter to Vick, but he can’t approach his strategy that way or he will pay with his third straight loss.
“James Vick is tall and it’s a fight. He hits hard enough to knock people out. I have to worry about those things,” Gaethje said. “I can’t say that James Vick cannot beat me. But do his feet move like the last two guys I fought? Does he game the angles like the last two guys I fought? Absolutely not. You can watch his fights and that’s very evident. He’s fought one top 15 guy and he got knocked out by that guy.
“He wants to say I’ve fought tomato cans, but he’s had a lot of favorable matchups in the UFC. Very few of those were the type of guys who put pressure on you and make you fight the kind of fight you’re not used to fighting.”