Top-ranked UFC lightweight Justin Gaethje was “scared” to fight fellow knockout artist Edson Barboza in 2019.
The two fan favorites clashed as the main event for UFC on ESPN 2, an event that took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both men entered the Octagon riding the momentum of a recent KO victory, and they looked to continue their rise up the promotion’s 155-pound ladder. And although “The Highlight” knew the force he was dealing with, he rose to the occasion and landed a thunderous overhand right on the Brazilian during the opening round, putting him to sleep.
On March 30, BJPenn.com shared a clip of the KO on Twitter to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the “Fight of the Night” recipient. “One of the few times I’ve been scared walking into a fight was against Barboza,” Gaethje wrote in response to the tweet. “Watching him body people was definitely in the back of my mind.”
Watch the clip below via the embedded tweet:
Gaethje Earned a Big Win Earlier This Month, Wants Top Name Next
The Highlight is on a quest to earn a third undisputed lightweight title shot, and he took a meaningful step toward it at UFC 286. He drew Rafael Fiziev for the co-main event slot on March 19 and he defeated the surging striker via majority decision. Gaethje is ranked No. 3 in the division and he was faced with a must-win scenario considering he’s already had two attempts at becoming champion.
The 34-year-old 24-4 professional mixed martial artist recently spoke with TMZ and he called for a rematch with No. 2 Dustin Poirier. And if that doesn’t happen, he’ll happily take on the loser of UFC 288’s No. 1 Charles Oliveira vs. No. 4 Beneil Dariush.
“I think that’s the obvious choice, Dustin,” Gaethje said. “He’s sitting at number 2 right now, I gave the new guys a chance and I proved that I am elite, and I need to fight elite fighters to fight for a belt. I think Dustin’s the obvious choice. I think the loser of Dariush and Oliveira is also an option, but outside of those two, I do not see an option.”
Prior to toppling Fiziev, Gaethje fought Charles Oliveira for the lightweight strap at UFC 274 in May 2022. Gaethje looked to do what he couldn’t against Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2020: become an undisputed UFC champion. But, Oliveira didn’t allow that to happen and he tapped The Highlight out with a first-round rear-naked choke.
Gaethje has an overall UFC record of 7-4, which includes his “Fight of the Night” TKO loss to Poirier when they fought in 2018.
Gaethje Believes He Can Become Champion By Knocking Out Islam Makhachev
If The Highlight picks up one more victory against a top-ranked opponent, he’ll once again be knocking on the door of a title tilt. Dagestan, Russia’s Islam Makhachev is the current ruler of the weight class, and although Gaethje knows it’d be a “hard fight,” he believes his power can dethrone the champion.
He told TMZ that his “primary focus” in a training camp for Makhachev would be his cardio considering Makhachev’s grappling prowess.