Justin Gaethje believes the UFC lightweight division has lost some prestige since former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov decided to retire.
Speaking with ESPN's Brett Okamoto ahead of his UFC 268 bout against former title challenger Michael Chandler, Gaethje revealed that he isn't pleased with the recent developments at the top of his division. 'The Highlight' said:
"I thought this was the most coveted title in the UFC when Khabib was around. It was turned into the laughing stock of the UFC overnight."
The former 155-pound interim titleholder also claimed that Chandler and Charles Oliveira – the two contenders who ended up fighting for the vacant championship belt – did nothing to restore the division's reputation.
"When you had Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler fighting for, to be the best, when those two weren't the best guys fighting for the belt. It was me and (Dustin) Poirier, is who should be fighting for the belt. Number one, number two. That's what should've happened."
The UFC 262 main event bout between Oliveira and Chandler has been criticized by many, given that Chandler only had one fight in the octagon prior to the title fight. Top-ranked lightweight Dustin Poirier notably opted to fight Conor McGregor for a third time instead of pursuing the strap.
No love lost between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler
Justin Gaethje will finally return to action at UFC 268 on November 6 against fellow top contender Michael Chandler. It will be the first time Gaethje will see action in the octagon since losing to Nurmagomedov in October 2020.
'The Highlight' is clearly unhappy with how his opponent was given the golden opportunity ahead of him. According to Gaethje, he'll use his ill feelings towards Chandler as motivation come fight night.
"He's my enemy; he's trying to take everything I am; he's trying to kill me on November 6th. That's what I'm preparing myself for because that's what ultimately I have to convince myself is the most real thing so that I'm able to go to a primal place. And be not who Justin Gaethje is right here. It's a place I get to go twice a year and I love going there."
Watch Justin Gaethje's interview with Brett Okamoto below:
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