If Justin Gaethje doesn’t get the best of Charles Oliveira on the feet, then he doesn’t like his chances.

Gaethje (23-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) is projected to challenge UFC lightweight champion Oliveira (32-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC) next and despite continuously doubting the Brazilian, Gaethje knows he’s in for a tough fight.

Oliveira added onto his UFC record for most submission wins when he retained his title against Dustin Poirier at UFC 269, but Gaethje knows the champion isn’t just a submission threat.

“At the end of the day, if my striking isn’t way better than his then I’m f*cked, per se,” Gaethje told ESPN. “That’s where I’m great. I’m great at creating pressure, creating damage and stopping takedowns. So ultimately, he’s going to be trying to get it to the ground because I’m gonna find so much success in the striking department.

“He is incredibly dangerous in the striking department. His knees, his elbows. His ability to create pressure, control distance, second to none. But I better be better. Or else I’m gonna be in a f*cking world of trouble.”

Gaethje is coming off a “Fight of the Year” contender against Michael Chandler, outlasting the former Bellator champion in an all-out war at UFC 268. Oliveira captured the vacant lightweight title by knocking Chandler out, but both his wins over Chandler and Poirier didn’t come without a bit of early adversity. Oliveira was dropped in Round 1 of both title fights, but was able to weather the storm and score finishes.

But Gaethje explains that his critique of Oliveira’s heart was more to do with the latter rounds, not the start of the fight. The UFC’s all-time leader in finishes has never gone past Round 3, despite being booked in four five-round fights.

“I never said Charles Oliveira quits in the first or second round,” Gaethje said. “The times I’m talking about is deep. Deep in a fight when it gets rough, it gets hard. But that was the kid Oliveira was talking about anyways, so we’ll see. He’s proven me wrong up to this point, but my job will be to prove myself right when I step in there with him. Make him quit.”

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