With the year 2020 proving to be a disaster towards the best-laid plans of most across the globe, one of the few people seemingly thriving within the chaos is interim UFC lightweight champion Justin Gaethje.
It's a notion that should probably come as no surprise considering Gaethje (22-2) is seemingly more comfortable navigating all-action fights inside the cage than any fighter in UFC history thanks to his penchant for letting it all hang out.
The 31-year-old Gaethje took an opportunistic approach to his first fight of the year in May when he accepted a last-minute bout with red-hot Tony Ferguson and scored a savage fifth-round TKO to earn him a shot at Khabib Nurmagomedov's full 155-pound title at UFC 254 next Saturday.
After talking to Gaethje, it's clear he has nothing but respect for what Nurmagomedov (28-0) has accomplished. The two fighters aren't friends, per se, but do share the same manager in Ali Abdelaziz and that relationship has led Gaethje to even assist Nurmagomedov in cutting weight during the final days before a fight in the past.
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But it seems the respect stops at the door of the Octagon as Gaethje not only plans to finish Nurmagomedov in their lightweight unification fight, he has taken issue it seems with more than just those who believe the Russian mauler will be victorious. From UFC president Dana White to Nurmagomedov's teammate and coach -- Daniel Cormier and Javier Mendes, respectively -- to even Abdelaziz, it's clear Gaethje is unhappy that everyone has concocted an exit strategy for his opponent's career.
Gaethje was asked during an appearance Thursday on CBS Sports and Showtime's "Morning Kombat" which client he believes Abdelaziz is silently cheering for and the native of Arizona spoke about against those who are already planning a retirement bout next April for Nurmagomedov, whether it be against Georges St.-Pierre, Conor McGregor or anyone else.
"I'm here to ruin Ali's day, I'm here to ruin Dana White's day, I'm here to ruin Daniel Cormier's day, I'm here to ruin Javier Mendes' day, I'm here to ruin Khabib Nurmagomedov's day," Gaethje said. "F--- all those guys. They have already got [a plan]. I don't know what their plan is, but they said they have a plan ahead and I'm going to f--- it up."
In closing, Gaethje took it one step further. Throughout a calendar year that has been anything but predictable, Gaethje believes he will mirror that trend with his opportunity to play spoiler next weekend.
"They are going to change my nickname from 'The Highlight' to '2020,'" Gaethje said.
UFC 254 will take place inside the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi as part of UFC's seventh trip to "Fight Island" since the start of the global coronavirus pandemic.