Safford native Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje will get his first crack at UFC gold when he faces Tony Ferguson for the interim lightweight title at the Ultimate Fighting Championship 249 (UFC) pay per view event set for Saturday.
Gaethje, 31, the No. 4-ranked UFC lightweight, with a record of 21-2, gets another chance to face Ferguson, who has a record of 26-3 as a professional fighter.
Gaethje vs. Ferguson was initially scheduled for April 18, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was cancelled. Gaethje says he feels great about going into this fight and thinks it’s amazing he will be fighting for the title.
“I feel great going into this fight,” Gaethje, who lives and trains in Denver, Colorado said in a phone interview. “I started wrestling at the age of four, and I never knew that it would lead me here, but it’s cool to be on one of the biggest stages in the world.”
The delay gave Gaethje more time to train and prepare for his title shot against Ferguson.
“Mentally, it’s very beneficial for me. Most of it all comes down to the mental preparation, and that’s why I usually like to take the 10 to 12 weeks to get myself prepared.”
Gaethje said he told himself that he would fight again this year, and it was going to be a big one.
Gaethje’s biggest fan is none other than his mother, Carolina Espinoza Gaethje, who is very excited and nervous about her son’s upcoming fight.
“Excited for him because it was what he always dreamed of but very nervous as a parent.”
“This will be the first fight we will not be able to attend. My other son, Justin’s twin Marcus Gaethje, will be attending the fight because he will be in his corner as he is every fight,” said Gaethje’s mother.
Gathje said his day-to-day life has not changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when it comes to finding training partners, he has to call first to see if they’re ready as opposed to showing up at the gym and the whole team being there.
“I have a private gym where I’ve been doing all of my wrestling and boxing, private lessons with my coaches, so it hasn’t been too bad.”