Justin Gaethje on defeating Tony Ferguson: “It won’t mean I’m a world champion in the UFC”

Tony Ferguson, Dana White, UFC 249, Justin Gaethje

If Justin Gaethje beats Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, he will earn the interim lightweight title. However, in the eyes of “The Highlight,” that won’t make him a true champion.

President Dana White scrapped the plans for UFC 249 on April 18, and pushed it back to May 9. The main event was supposed to feature Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson, but the lightweight champion ultimately withdrew over the constant changes associated with the pandemic.

Now, the No. 4 ranked lightweight Gaethje stepped up to fight Ferguson and take him on for the interim title. Gaethje believes a win against Ferguson is just another step on the journey to the undisputed 155-pound belt owned by Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“When they wrap that belt around me, it won’t be the destination,” Justin said to ESPN. “It will be a map to the top. That’s who I’m looking at. It’ll be nice to have a belt wrapped around, but for me, it won’t mean the same. It won’t mean I’m a world champion in the UFC.”

Gaethje and Nurmagomedov are both managed by Ali Abdelaziz at Dominance MMA. Abdelaziz revealed that he is open to a title fight between his two clients. Justin Gaethje believes if he can beat the undefeated champion, he will prove he is the best in the world.

“When I beat Tony, I’m fighting Khabib next. That’s what I’m here for, to be the best in the world. And when I fight him, I want him to try and kill me, because I won’t respect him if he doesn’t.”

The 31-year old earned his nickname, The Highlight, from his list highlight-reel fights and finishes. He is currently riding three first-round KO wins. Meanwhile, Ferguson hasn’t felt defeat in over 8 years. He is riding a 12-fight win streak. Both fighters will put their impressive records to the test in the main event of UFC 249 on May 9.

Meanwhile, Khabib Nurmagomedov won’t defend his title until after August, when his commitments to Ramadam are complete. Whether he will face Gaethje or Ferguson in his next Octagon appearance remains to be seen.

This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 4/23/2020.