Justin Gaethje is one of the most exciting fighters in all of mixed martial arts.
He’s 18-2, with 16 of those wins coming via stoppage. Gaethje’s go-for-broke style has endeared him to fans all around the world and garnered him three main events in his four UFC fights.
After starting his career undefeated, Gaethje’s lost back-to-back fights to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, respectively. The 29-year-old has heard the talk since the loss to Poirier. Many have been saying he needs to alter his style of fighting and implement better use of his wrestling base because going toe-to-toe won’t be effective against the best the UFC has to offer. The NCAA Division I All-America wrestler at Northern Colorado has heard the noise leading into Saturday’s headliner against James Vick at UFC Lincoln.
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Whether anyone likes it or not, he plans on continuing to compete the only way he knows how.
“My game plan in the Poirier (fight) was to definitely break his leg,” Gaethje told Sporting News. “It would have been counterproductive to take him down. I stuffed every takedown he tried so I am using my wrestling to stuff takedowns and keep position to where I want it to be. I roll with my punches. I never saw the punches Eddie and Dustin got on me. It’s the shots you don’t see that will hurt you and put you away. I pride myself in the ability to see shots but I didn’t see those two. I don’t take shots clean. I go out there and fight how I want. People live their own lives and I make my own decisions.”
Vick has criticized Gaethje’s quality of opposition before he entered the UFC last summer and feels the defeats to Alvarez and Poirier have proved that all of his wins have come over lower-caliber fighters.
“He doesn’t take into account who I’ve fought and how close I was to winning these last two fights,” Gaethje said. “I could have easily won. It’s a game of inches. Dustin and Eddie did a great job of facing adversity and landing the shot they needed to land when they did. They were prepared for one of the hardest fights they were going to ever have and James isn’t. I’m going into my third main event in my fourth UFC fight. There’s a reason I’m here and he just doesn’t get that.”
The former World Series of Fighting lightweight champion knows what is on the line. He knows his back is against the wall and that he can ill-afford to suffer a third consecutive defeat.
Gaethje vows to do the same thing to Vick that he did to every opponent he battled outside the UFC.
“I’m going to put James Vick to sleep,” Gaethje said. “He hasn’t mentally prepared unless he goes out there and gets lucky in the first three minutes and lands a huge shot, which is always possible. I’m going to go out there and put the pressure on James. He doesn’t like to be in a real fight. He likes to be in pretty fights. I’m not going to let him be in a pretty fight. He’s not mentally prepared to push through the situations he’s going to need to push himself through.”