UFC superstar Conor McGregor retired 10 days ago, but that hasn’t kept other UFC champions, contenders and even retired professional boxers from calling the 31-year-old out through the media. The latest to do so is UFC interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje, who suggested in an interview with ESPN that McGregor would probably come back to the Octagon if Gaethje defeated UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov in his next fight and that the American would knock out McGregor if that happened.
“So I think I would knock him out, to be honest,” Gaethje said. “I think he’s got about three rounds, and then it’s hell, and he doesn’t want to go to hell…”
Gaethje Explained KO Prediction
Gaethje was the frontrunner to land next crack at McGregor, but the 31-year-old newly crowned interim champ stepped in for Nurmagomedov after the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for the Russian to defend his title at UFC 249 against Tony Ferguson, and the late replacement spoiled the UFC’s 155-pound party by scoring the upset win.
Gaethje looked better than ever in his last fight, so he expects to have his way against McGregor the same as he did against Ferguson, who had won 12 straight UFC fights before getting stopped by Gaethje.
“Distance control is the No. 1 factor in any fight,” Gaethje said. “It’s established in the first 30 seconds. It’s not visible, but it’s established, and that would be a huge factor in our fight. Who can control the distance?”
Gaethje believes he knows the answer to that question already.
“I think the best thing about me is I can kick the (expletive) out of people, so when they are trying to control distance or maybe they are winning at that, I can kick them in the leg and try to reset that,” Gaethje said.
That’s why Gaethje predicts a knockout win over McGregor.
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Gaethje Mostly Praised McGregor’s Career
Despite the recent animosity between the two lightweights, Gaethje mostly praised McGregor for what the Irishman had accomplished during his professional fighting career.
“What he did was legendary status,” Gaethje said. “I’ll never take that away from him. He deserves credit. He’s accomplished so much in this sport. What every fighter wants to attain, he accomplished, so hats off to him.”
Still, all those big wins and important historical achievements McGregor attached to his name seems to have made Gaethje want to fight him even more.
“I can’t wait to punch him in the face,” Gaethje said.
Gaethje Not Buying Retirement Talk
And while McGregor retired from fighting earlier this month, Gaethje also knows that McGregor’s latest announcement was the third such retirement announced in the last four years.
The other two times, McGregor came back to fight.
Why would this time be different?
Regardless, Gaetheje said he thinks winning his next fight for the undisputed UFC lightweight title later this year is the surest and straightest line to luring McGregor back inside the cage.
“I think he should wait for the winner of me and Khabib,” Gaethje said. “If I win, I think he definitely comes back. If Khabib wins, I don’t know. I’m not sure about that.”
Gaethje believes he’ll stop McGregor late in the fight.
You can watch ESPN’s full interview with Gaethje below.
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