Justin Gaethje has an epic choice to make after defeating Tony Ferguson on Saturday night in the main event of UFC 249. But what will Gaethje choose?
Sure, his shiny new interim lightweight title belt “100%” guarantees him next crack at Khabib Nurmagomedov for the UFC’s undisputed 155-pound championship, and Gaethje went so far as to say there was no other fight he wanted after stopping Ferguson in the fifth round, but the plain truth of the matter is that Gaethje is now also in prime position to nab the single biggest payday he could possibly ever earn inside the Octagon against Irish superstar Conor McGregor.
So what should Gaethje do?
Is UFC gold the most important thing right now?
Or is McGregor always going to be the bigger and better-looking fish in the UFC’s lightweight pond?
Whichever fight he picks next, Gaethje has an epic choice to make after scoring the biggest win of his career against Ferguson at Vystar Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida.
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Why Nurmagomedov Makes Sense
Nurmagomedov makes sense because “The Eagle” is the champ. He’s undefeated across all promotions in 28 fights, and he already defeated McGregor back at UFC 229 convincingly enough that it would look like Gaethje is avoiding him if he chose McGregor over Nurmagomedov.
On top of that, UFC president Dana White has repeatedly said the winner of Ferguson-Gaethje would fight Nurmagomedov next, and the 31-year-old Russian also confirmed he’d be ready to fight again as soon as July.
In short, there’s nothing to keep this fight from happening next, and added to that mix is that Gaethje and Nurmagomedov have the same manager, Ali Abdelaziz.
Additionally, McGregor basically revealed on Instagram Saturday that he’s already aiming to complete a trilogy against Nate Diaz next, or at least Diaz is on the very short list of next possible opponents.
Why McGregor Makes Sense
McGregor makes sense because he’s the biggest superstar in MMA. Even though he lost to Nurmagomedov two years ago, McGregor maintains his status as the top draw in the sport. That means he brings in the most attention and biggest audience, and he also typically offers his opponents the biggest paydays of their careers.
Additionally, Gaethje facing McGregor next could potentially fit into the UFC’s plans in a backward sort of way in that it would offer the Irishman the chance to earn his coveted rematch against Nurmagomedov. It would do that by making another huge megafight happen between him and Gaethje, two of the best and most popular fighters in the sport.
Add to it that both McGregor and Gaethje are tremendous strikers that are sure to produce a high-drama action fight together, and it’s easy to see why McGregor is a solid option for Gaethje to at least consider for his next fight.
Prediction: Gaethje Picks Nurmagomedov
Gaethje knows how long Ferguson waited to fight for the undisputed lightweight championship, and that he never got that chance, even after winning the same kind of interim title belt Gaethje now wears.
If the American wants to minimize his chance of suffering the same fate, he will probably gun for his title shot right now.
While some fighters might be tempted to seek the biggest payday of their careers (and honestly would be wise in doing so), Gaethje looked so excellent against Ferguson that he might not want to delay taking his shot at becoming the first fighter to defeat Nurmagomedov.
Besides, Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje is the fight everyone in the sport probably wants to see most right now after seeing Gaethje shockingly dismantle Ferguson, a fighter who had won 12 straight UFC fights entering Saturday night.
Regardless, no matter which fight he chooses next, Gaethje put himself in a tremendous position by beating Ferguson at UFC 249.
He’s got an epic choice ahead of him, but one he totally deserves to make on his own.