Justin Gaethje thinks he’s a far different fighter than the one who fought Dustin Poirier three years ago.

After an all-out war for three rounds at UFC on FOX 29 in 2018, Poirier stopped Gaethje in the opening minute of Round 4. Since then, Gaethje has won five of six fights, including an interim title win over Tony Ferguson and a “Fight of the Year” contender against Michael Chandler last month at UFC 268.

In the process of returning to his winning ways, Gaethje (23-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) started to display a more patient and calculated approach to his fights, which has made him just as lethal, but prevented him from taking unnecessary damage. So for that reason, Gaethje thinks this refined version of himself would give Poirier a different challenge.

“Yeah, I think it would be fantastic to watch,” Gaethje said on the “Throwing Down with Renee and Miesha” podcast. “Once it happens (Poirier rematch), I’ll be excited to watch it. Every single fight of mine is the same, you know, extremely entertaining. Yeah, the fight with him the first time, he was very good. I played a different game back then. It was who’s tougher, who’s stronger, and he outlasted me and landed that shot. The shots he took, I was surprised. And again, that’s why I have so much respect for the heart and will of that guy.”

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Gaethje is presumably awaiting the winner of Saturday’s UFC 269 main event between lightweight champion Charles Oliveira (31-8 MMA, 19-8 UFC) and Poirier (28-6 MMA, 20-5 UFC). If the fight goes into the championship rounds, which Oliveira never has experienced, Gaethje is leaning toward Poirier – but he can also see the Brazilian catching him early.

“If they get into some grappling situations, I think Poirier can get finished in the first two, two-and-a-half rounds,” Gaethje said. “But I think after that, like most fights do, it’ll come down to heart and will. There is something special about Poirier when it comes to that department, you know. He’s made all the money, but it’s very special when you find someone who’s not here just for the money, and he is one of those guys. So I don’t see him losing in the heart and will department in this fight.”


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