Justin Gaethje is of the opinion that the lightweight division has lost its legitimacy since Khabib Nurmagomedov retired.

Nurmagomedov hung up his gloves after submitting Gaethje (22-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) to retain the title last October, and “The Highlight” did not approve of the promotion’s choice for the vacant lightweight title fight.

After Dustin Poirier opted for a trilogy with Conor McGregor, the UFC matched up the streaking Charles Oliveira against still relative promotional newcomer Michael Chandler in May at UFC 262, leaving former interim champ Gaethje out of the picture.

“I was probably more bitter at the opportunity that he (Chandler) got in favor of me,” Gaethje told ESPN. “I was pissed off at the time. I thought this was the most coveted title in the UFC when Khabib was around, and it was turned into almost the laughing stock of the UFC overnight.

“When you had Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler fighting each other for the title to be the best, when those two weren’t the best guys fighting for the belt. It was me and (Dustin) Poirier, is who should be have been fighting for the belt, No. 1, No. 2. That’s what should’ve happened.”

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Oliveira ended up knocking out Chandler to claim the title. Gaethje will now meet Chandler (22-6 MMA, 1-1 UFC) on Nov. 6 at UFC 268 in what could very well could be a No. 1 contender bout.

Gaethje, who recently signed a new UFC deal, continues to admit he’s not entirely sold on Oliveira as champion, but if the Brazilian is able to get past Poirier – a Dec. 11 booking is possible – he’ll give him his due respect.

“As soon as Poirier fights Oliveira, if Oliveira beats him and really solidifies himself as the best – right now he’s not the best,” Gaethje said. “Right now he still has some quit in him, and he hasn’t been tested by the best guys. I think Chandler did do that, but it’s a very favorable matchup for Oliveira, so we’ll see. We’ll see how he handles Poirier. I can’t give him credit now, but if he goes out there and beats Poirier, I have no other choice but to give him the respect he deserves.”


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