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Running scared: Justin Gaethje manager denies Conor McGregor fight talks, says Irishman 'had that opportunity already'

Running scared: Justin Gaethje manager denies Conor McGregor fight talks, says Irishman 'had that opportunity already'
MMA manager Ali Abdelaziz has denied that Justin Gaethje is in discussions to fight Conor McGregor this summer, saying that the Irish fighter has already had his chance to take on the hard-hitting lightweight.

ESPN reporter Ariel Helwani had suggested that the UFC was keen on arranging a fight between McGregor and Gaethje to take place this summer, with the winner of that presumably being locked in to fight the victor of April's highly-anticipated title tilt between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.

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However, Abdelaziz - who counts Gaethje and Nurmagomedov amongst his clients - has slammed the rumors, saying that Gaethje is the true number one contender for the 155lbs title and that McGregor had a chance to take on his fighter last month, but opted for a fight with Donald Cerrone instead.

"This rumor about [Justin Gaethje] fighting [Conor McGregor] is absolutely false," Abdelaziz wrote on Twitter. "He had the opportunity to fight him already instead of Cowboy but he didn't. Justin is the number one contender and like Khabib said. Conor needs to win 10 fights."

UFC boss Dana White has previously stated that he sees McGregor, and not Gaethje, as next in line to fight the winner of Khabib-Ferguson following the Irishman's 40-second destruction of Cerrone last month. Gaethje is currently in the midst of a three-fight win streak in the lightweight division, with his last fight also a victory against Cerrone. 

Nurmagomedov has resisted talk of a rematch with McGregor, suggesting - as referenced by Abdelaziz above - that McGregor must win 10 more fights before being in title contention once again. 

Kiwi fighter Dan Hooker issued a challenge to Gaethje following his UFC main event win against Paul Felder in New Zealand last weekend and that would also be an option for the American fighter's next move, but that would generate a fraction of the revenue that a showdown with McGregor would. 

The landscape of the UFC lightweight division will become a lot clearer when Nurmagomedov and Ferguson meet in Brooklyn, New York on April 18. Should the Russian champion emerge victorious, it is likely that he would be inactive until around September due to his commitment to Ramadan. 

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Gaethhe, meanwhile, was captured on a social media video alongside UFC champion Henry Cejudo openly calling for a fight with Conor McGregor last weekend - and in direct contrast to his manager's recent statements.

So, regardless of how the Gaethje camp or his management feel about the notorious Irishman, it would be foolish for a fighter at the top of his division to turn down a bout with McGregor given the financial benefits and everything else that comes with it.