While Charles Oliveira may have proven him wrong at UFC 269, Justin Gaethje is hoping to flip the script when he gets his title shot later this year.
The Oliveira vs. Gaethje matchup was almost certainly confirmed at UFC 269. “The Highlight” effectively secured his place opposite the champion in 2022 by putting on a Fight of the Year candidate with Michael Chandler. After three rounds of action, the former interim titleholder was awarded a unanimous decision and overtook Islam Makhachev and Beneil Dariush in the race for the #1-contender spot.
His opponent was decided in the final pay-per-view main event of 2021, which pitted champion Oliveira against challenger Dustin Poirier. While many expected “The Diamond” to secure a third victory of the year and experience his first undisputed title crowning, the Brazilian continued to upset the odds, this time by submitting Poirier in the third frame and recording his first successful defense.
Like many in the MMA community, Gaethje had doubted Oliveira’s championship credentials before his clash with Poirier. As well as refusing to recognize him as the lightweight king until he beat the Louisianan, Gaethje suggested “Do Bronx” still has quit in him, something he believes Chandler proved in the opening round of the UFC 262 main event.
Having recovered from an early knockdown to deliver an imposing performance against Poirier, who some branded the “uncrowned champion,” many have suggested Oliveira has firmly proved Gaethje wrong. While admitting that to be the case at the moment in an interview with ESPN MMA’s Brett Okamoto, “The Highlight” intends on proving himself right when his own title shot arrives next year.
“I never said Charles Oliveira would quit in the first or second round,” Gaethje said. “The times I’m talking about is deep, deep in the fight when, you know, it gets rough, it gets hard… We’ll see. He’s proven me wrong up to this point. But, you know, my job will be to prove myself right when I step in there with him and make him quit.”
Gaethje Targets May/July Title Shot
In terms of timeframe, Gaethje suggested the contest is likely to go down in the second quarter of 2022, highlighting May as the earliest possibility.
“Even by entertainment standards, which are pretty low, I’m next,” Gaethje said. “How could I not be? … I would say earliest May, latest July.”
Given his desire to dethrone Oliveira in the champ’s home country of Brazil and the recent reports suggesting a return to the South American nation in May, it seems logical we’ll be seeing Oliveira’s second title defense headline that card if it comes to fruition.
While the hometown hero would be looking for perhaps the most memorable victory of his career, Gaethje would be hoping to spoil the party on foreign soil.
How do you think the fight between Justin Gaethje and champion Charles Oliveira will play out?
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