When it comes to MMA, there are few things in life that World Series of Fighting lightweight champion Justin Gaethje takes more seriously.
Whether it’s his preparation for a bout or the match itself, Gaethje puts all of his focus and energy into it. Thus when his Oct. 7 bout with Ozzy Dugulubgov was canceled, Gaethje was extremely disappointed, but was able to move on and focus on what was next.
“All the hard work I was waiting to come to fruition, and not being able to fight and not have a choice, and have that taken out from underneath you like that is heartbreaking,” Gaethje told MMAWeekly.com. “It’s part of what we do, and you’ve just got to move on.
“That was a 12-week camp going into that one. And when I was at that fight (WSOF 33), I actually found out I was fighting on Dec. 31. I took one week off and then I was right back in it.”
Having gone undefeated throughout his five-year career and having successfully held the WSOF lightweight belt for the past two, at this point, headlining an event with a title defense would seem like old hat for Gaethje, but not so.
“Every single time you could get seriously injured or you could seriously injure someone; your whole life can change,” said Gaethje. “You really have to prepare for those things mentally and not go in there like it’s just another day. Every fight should be like the pinnacle of your life up to that point.
“As soon as I lose motivation, I will stop fighting because that would be hazardous to my health. I love what I do, and I haven’t proven I’m the best yet, so I still have a long ways to go.”
For his next bout, Gaethje (16-0) will again defend his lightweight championship at WSOF 34 on New Year’s Eve in New York City against late replacement Luiz Firmino (19-7) in the evening’s main event.
“If I keep it standing, I’m sure he’s going to try to take it to the ground,” Gaethje said. “I’m heads above him in striking and technique and all of that.”
Even though he’s accomplished a lot and continues to reach new pinnacles in his career, Gaethje’s attention is as always on competition itself. Anything beyond that is something for a later day.
“This is a crazy sport that we’re in. Every fight is the biggest opportunity up to that point,” said Gaethje. “I haven’t even thought about 2017. My focus has been completely on this fight, and as soon as that’s over, my focus will be on the next fight and nothing after that.”