UFC sidelined Justin Gaethje by booking a title shot between Michael Chandler and Charles Oliveira. Earlier a fight between Gaethje and Chandler was reported to be booked until White announced Khabib Nurmagomedov’s official retirement.
UFC would then book Oliveira vs Chandler for the vacant lightweight title. However, that leaves Justin Gaethje without any opponent for a long period of time. Dustin Poirier will fight Conor McGregor in the trilogy in July. And Tony Ferguson is facing Beneil Dariush next. That leaves only Dan Hooker inside the top 5 of the division who is available to fight Gaethje.
However, UFC seems to have some different plans for the former interim champion. In the press conference for UFC 260, Dana White opened up about Gaethje’s next fight and stated that he is very likely the next contender in line for the title shot. White stated:
“He is probably next in line. Depends on what happens with Dustin and Conor. You know how that it is. Timing is everything. When these fights happen. How much damage did the guy who won take, what kind of personal issue does he have going on? All that factors into when the next fight will be. Justin Gaethje could not be in a better position.”
In a recent interview with Full Reptile, when Justin Gaethje was asked about UFC sidelining him to book Chandler vs Oliveria, he said:
“If I get disrespected, it’s going to be hurtful because I really bought into what that man (Dana White) talked about. So yeah, it’ll hurt because I feel like I’m a company man from Day 1. I don’t ever wanna go anywhere else, I don’t ever want to fight anywhere else. But my principles are the most important thing to me, so we’ll see what happens.”
Why did UFC remove Justin Gaethje from the title picture?
Michael Chandler vs Charles Oliveira is the best fight UFC could have booked for the vacant lightweight title. Except for these two fighters, every other top UFC lightweight such as Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje have lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov.
And crowning a champion who has lost to the previous champion is not a good look for the division. But, if Michael Chandler or Charles Oliveira is the champion then the division will have a champion who has not fought Khabib yet. Besides that, Oliveira deserves a title shot for his impressive winning streak in the division.
The future of Justin Gaethje would depend a lot on the outcome of Poirier vs McGregor 3. If Conor wins the fight then UFC will definitely book Conor for a title fight. But, if Poirier wins the fight then we might see a rematch between Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje.