Justin Gaethje says beating Tony Ferguson for the interim lightweight title at UFC 249 won’t make him a world champion.
Gaethje is scheduled to face Ferguson on May 9 at a location which is yet to be disclosed. The lightweight contenders were matched together late last month after 155lb champion Khabib Nurmagomedov was forced out of his April 18 fight against ‘El Cucuy’.
The event was postponed after Disney/ESPN bosses told UFC President Dana White to shut down the event which was due to take place at the Tachi Palace in California. Gavin Newsom – the governor of California – intervened and asked the TV giants to cancel the event.
Speaking to ESPN Gaethje said he realizes his fight against Ferguson is big, but winning the interim belt won’t make him a UFC champion – only beating Khabib Nurmagomedov will allow him to do that.
“When they wrap that belt around me, it won’t be the destination 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.
“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.”
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the event on May 9, Gaethje is adamant he will train 100 percent to ensure he is ready for the toughest fight of his life, he said.
“I have to be 100 percent confident,” Gaethje said. “I was 100 percent confident it was going to happen on April 18, because if I’m not, I pull my foot off the gas.”
Would you consider Justin Gaethje a champion if he beats Tony Ferguson and wins the interim lightweight title?