Justin Gaethje: Max Holloway at UFC 300 wasn’t first choice, but ‘I kind of talked this into existence on accident’

Justin Gaethje was hoping his next fight would be for the UFC lightweight title, but things did not work out that way.

Instead of getting a shot at Islam Makhachev, Gaethje (25-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC) landed in a fight against former featherweight champion Max Holloway at UFC 300 for the BMF title. While it wasn’t Gaethje’s first choice, he also believes his own words led to this matchup against Hollway (25-7 MMA, 21-7 UFC).

“I kind of talked this into existence on accident,” Gaethje told Kevin Iole. “I said, ‘I didn’t want to punch Max Holloway, but he’s also a guy that could fight for a BMF belt.’ That turns out into going to be having to punch Max Holloway. It’s the name of the game, and I am the best in the world at creating damage.

“The last two fights, I have been very tactical and very, very, very methodical in my approach. I think that obviously I’m going to continue to do that, and if I can do that, then it’s going to be very hard for Max to overwhelm me and put me in positions where I shouldn’t be.”

Both Gaethje and Holloway were seemingly stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for a title shot in their respective divisions. Holloway believed his previous two victories were enough to earn a fourth fight against Alexander Volkanovski, and Gaethje believed his two-fight run placed him in No. 1 contender position to face Makhachev.

However, neither fighter got their first wish, leading to the BMF title fight at the promotion’s milestone event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. But the fight and the placement does create another interesting situation regarding the lightweight title.

Also on the card is Charles Oliveira vs. Arman Tsarukyan, another lightweight matchup in which both fighters believe they will be up next for the title should they emerge victorious. It’s crowded at the top of the lightweight division, but Gaethje is glad he gets a chance to prove he belongs by performing.

“It’s always funny how it works out,” Gaethje said. “You always think it’s going to go one way, and you can never guess what’s going to happen with the UFC. Once the Oliveira and Tsarukyan fight got announced, I was really confident that I was going to get the Makhachev fight, because I figured, obviously there is nobody else to fight him. … I don’t know what’s going on. Some injury or something, but he’s not going to fight till June or July, I guess.

“I was under the impression that if not for sure a title eliminator, that the fight with Dustin Poirier was as much a title eliminator as this Tsarukyan and Oliveira fight is. Now, me fighting on the same card as those guys, I’m going to be obviously above them, all four of us – you know, me, Max, Tsaruykan, Oliveira, we all got a chance to stand out.

Gaethje continued,

“I think it’s a great opportunity. I think it’s second-best obviously if they lined me up with Makhachev – that’s the best-case scenario. Second best scenario is I get to fight for it, and that’s the scenario I’m in. I get to go in there, I get to stand out. There’s going to be two contenders coming out that night. So, we’ll see what happens after that.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 300.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie