Justin Gaethje says 'you're an idiot if you're not excited' about his fight with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 (VIDEO)
The UFC lightweight contender and former World Series of Fighting lightweight champ will take on Ferguson for the interim UFC lightweight title in the newly-booked main event of UFC 249, which will be held at a mystery location on April 18.
And while he admitted the prospect of stepping in on such short notice against one of the most dangerous 155-pound fighters on the planet, the man known as "The Highlight" says he's ready to meet the challenge head-on.
"Every time I've ever fought there's never been this many unknowns, much less the unknowns we're dealing with right now," he told TMZ.
"So it's really a terrifying moment, and I'm talking about the competition side. I know what I'm facing.
"Tony's been getting ready for Khabib Nurmagomedov, to fight for a world title, for the last three, four, five months. I don't know how long, it doesn't matter. But it's perfect, because I always think they're working harder, I always think they're better than me, I always think they're luckier than me, and I love to face adversity. I'm facing my fears right now, and I think that's what we all need to do."
Gaethje has been offered short-notice fights in the past, and has turned them all down as he has taken a sensible approach to his fighting career to ensure he gets the best possible preparation to deliver the best possible performances inside the octagon. But the lure of UFC gold proved to be the clincher as he accepted the job of filling in for lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 249.
"No, I haven't (accepted a short-notice fight like this before), but I've also never been offered a UFC title and that's the only thing I'm working for. That's all I've been working for since the beginning, so I'm ready to gamble," he said.
"There's very few people on earth that would sign up for what me and Tony signed up for – including most UFC fighters. A lot of guys will say that they're ready but a lot of guys will not put their name on that dotted line.
"They called me, my coach said no. Well, not no, but he said, 'You don't take late-replacement fights.' and I said, 'You're right.' So I was like, 'Let's sleep on it.'
"The next morning when I woke up I said, 'If I lose, where are we at?' And for me, it's in the same exact spot that I'm in right now.
"I'm going to go out there, I'm going to get a paycheck, which is nice. But ultimately I get a chance at glory. Heroes live forever, legends never die and I'm literally here to make a statement. My name will be carried on far longer after I'm here because of my effort, because of my work ethic and because of the skills I possess."
Gaethje has a reputation as one of the hardest-hitting lightweights in the UFC, but he is also very well aware of his opponent's own resume. Ferguson holds the longest undefeated streak in the UFC, tied with Nurmagomedov, and has left a string of battered, bloody opponents in his wake on his run toward the top of the UFC lightweight division.
It means the matchup between the pair should deliver guaranteed excitement when they throw down on April 18. And Gaethje said that fans should get behind the fight, saying that they'd have to be out of their minds to not be excited by the prospect of himself and Ferguson going toe to toe inside the octagon.
"Tony brings many challenges," admitted Gaethje.
"I'm looking forward to facing adversity in there. I know he thrives in dark places and I consider myself to also thrive in dark places. So as disappointing as it is that Khabib and Tony aren't happening, if you're a fan of MMA, then you're an idiot if you're not excited about this fight.
"I've got the perfect dance partner. I got the dance partner that I dream about. Like I said, he thrives in dark places, he doesn't get tired, he's got cardio for days and I hit like a Mack truck. So when I hit him, he'll go to sleep.
"I possess some of the best finishing skills on the UFC roster. I'm going to attack his body and I'm going to attack his legs and then, whenever he's worried about those, I'm going to punch him in the head and hopefully he goes to sleep. If not, he's probably going to cut me up with some elbows, probably choke me out late in the fight, if I don't put him to sleep.
"But I'm content with every single one of those scenarios, just as long as I get to go in there and I don't disappoint myself and my family. That's my only goal."Also on rt.com UFC boss Dana White named as victim in SEX TAPE extortion case involving Las Vegas stripper