Birthplace: Safford, Arizona
Fighting out of: Arvada, Colorado
Nickname: The Highlight
Mixed martial arts record: 23 fights – won 21 (18 by knockout, 1 by submission, 2 by decision), lost 2 (2 by knockout)
Titles: WSOF Lightweight Championship (2014-16 – five successful defences)
Against the odds and after a false start, UFC 249 will go ahead on 10 May (AEST) in the face of the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the sporting calendar worldwide. With UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov ruled out of the scheduled headline bout with Tony Ferguson due to travel restrictions, Justin Gaethje – the UFC’s fourth-ranked lightweight – stepped into the breach to take on Ferguson, while UFC 249’s three-week delay has given Gaethje more time to prepare for arguably the biggest fight of his career to date.
Justin Gaethje career summary
Arizona product Justin Gaethje began wrestling at the age of four and won multiple state championships before carving out an impressive college record at the University of Northern Colorado. He made the shift to mixed martial arts, and turned professional as a 22-year-old in 2011. Justin Gaethje’s record in amateur MMA was 7–0.
Gaethje won his seven pro MMA fights to earn a contract with the fledgling World Series of Fighting (WSOF) promotion in early 2013. The lightweight won the WSOF Lightweight Championship from Richard Patishnock with a TKO victory in January 2014.
The Denver-based fighter successfully defended the title five times – winning each bout inside three rounds by TKO. Gaethje’s absorbing March 2015 encounter with Luis Palomino was voted Fight of the Year by the LA Times. By the time he vacated the title in 2017 to sign with UFC, Gaethje held WSOF records for most knockout wins (9) and longest lightweight winning streak (10).
Ultimate Fighter triumph kicks off UFC tenure
Gaethje made his UFC debut in The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption finale in July 2017, beating the experienced Michael Johnson via a second-round TKO in an epic battle. The 28-year-old collected a $200,000 pay cheque for the victory.
Tough losses, resounding wins
Gaethje suffered defeats in his next two UFC fights – although he lost few admirers. He went down to former UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez via a third-round knockout at UFC 218 in December 2017, before being stopped by a fourth-round TKO against long-time UFC star Dustin Poirier in the UFC on Fox headliner in April 2018. Both attracted Fight of the Night honours.
Since then, Gaethje has chalked up three straight first-round knockout wins. He KO’d James Vick (UFC Fight Night in August 2018) and Edson Barboza (UFC on ESPN in March 2019) with a punch. In Justin Gaethje’s last fight – at the Vancouver-hosted UFC Fight Night in September 2019 – he accounted for Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone by TKO late in the first round.
Justin Gaethje’s next fight will be against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on 10 May for the interim UFC Lightweight Championship. ‘The Highlight’ was unveiled as the headline bout replacement for Russian UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who pulled out due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, on 6 April.
Gaethje currently sits as the fourth-ranked contender in the UFC’s lightweight rankings, behind champion Nurmagomedov, Ferguson, Poirier and Conor McGregor. Despite his strong wrestling pedigree, Gaethje is renowned for his brutal punching power and brawling style.
Justin Gaethje statistics
Keep these key stats in mind if you plan on placing a bet on Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje’s next fight.
- Justin Gaethje’s last 10 fights – including all six of his UFC bouts and the only two losses of his MMA career – were decided by KO or TKO.
- Justin Gaethje’s record in the UFC stands at 4–2; his career MMA record is 21–2.
- Just two of Gaethje’s 23 career fights have gone the distance – the last in 2014. Only one fight – a win in 2012 – finished via submission.
- Gaethje has recorded nine first-round knockout victories in his career, including in his last three UFC fights.
- Both of Gaethje’s losses came via knockout in the third round or later.
Justin Gaethje news
While the biggest opportunity of Justin Gaethje’s career to date has come about in extraordinary circumstances, there’s no question he deserves the headline chance at the UFC 249 against Tony Ferguson. The 31-year-old has been on a tear in the lightweight division and represents a huge challenge for. Gaethje’s call-up also suggests he is in the frame as a potential opponent for Khabib Nurmagomedov down the track.