UFC 300’s Justin Gaethje not keen on June turnaround for Islam Makhachev, defers to Oliveira-Tsarukyan winner

Justin Gaethje struggles to see a scenario where he defeats Max Holloway at UFC 300 then challenges Islam Makhachev for the lightweight title seven weeks later.

The BMF title matchup between reigning champ Gaethje (25-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC) and Holloway (25-7 MMA, 21-7 UFC) on Saturday’s card at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (pay-per-view, ESPN, ESPN+) has been met with some resistance within the MMA community, especially from those who think it’s derailed the natural order of the lightweight title picture.

Both current 155-pound champion Islam Makhachev and former titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov have been critical of UFC’s matchmaking, because they thought Gaethje should’ve been the next challenger. With Charles Oliveira and Arman Tsarukyan also set to fight at UFC 300, Makhachev doesn’t think anyone is going to meet his desired timeline of competing at UFC 302 on June 1 in Newark, N.J., which is why he called out Dustin Poirier for the date.

Gaethje admits he would be “annoyed” if Poirier, whom he knocked out at UFC 291 in July to claim the BMF title, got the fight against Makhachev. He can’t see himself fighting in June, though, and said his preferred timeline for his title shot would be toward the tail-end of the year.

“Ideally, they’re calling this Oliveira-Tsarukyan fight a title eliminator, so the winner of that fight fights (Makhachev) in June, then I fight the winner of that in preferably Madison Square Garden in November,” Gaethje told MMA Junkie. “That sounds like a perfect timeline for me. I’ll definitely have my time to rest, recovery and retrain myself to get ready for that fight. That’s the perfect situation for me. We’ll see if Oliveira sh*ts the bed again. I think if Tsarukyan wins he takes it because they are calling this a title eliminator, so whoever wins is going to have to fight that fight.”

Gaethje said he appreciates the supporters who think he should be fighting Makhachev next instead of Holloway. However, it’s too late for that to matter. He’s fully mentally and physically prepared for battle with Holloway this weekend, and if he handles his business, he’s certain his next fight will be for UFC lightweight told.

“I think if you appreciate the way that this sport works, I fought (Rafael) Fiziev, I knocked out the No. 2 guy and there’s nobody left,” Gaethje said. “Oliveira was supposed to fight him in October. I was supposed to fight the winner of that fight in February. But it did not work out like that so this is where we’re at, and this is what I have to take care of.”

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

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie