ESPN MMA’s Brett Okamoto speaks with Justin Gaethje about his upcoming BMF title fight vs. Max Holloway at UFC 300.

what’s up guys Brett okamoto with ESPN joined by the BMF champion and lightweight Contender Justin gatei who joins us from his home in Denver um looking like 10 years younger than the last time I saw you man no beard you’re like one of those guys where you shaved the beard off you go backward like 10 years man baby face yeah I had uh I had been trying to maintain it myself and I got a little bit uneven so I had to start from new oh yeah hit the reset button on it all right necessary super necessary well I was not expecting um I mean when did this fight get announced uh a week ago so had you asked me 10 days ago I would not have expected to really been be doing an interview with you talking about a fight I mean up until about 10 days at least publicly you had been saying like I’m gonna wait I want a lightweight title fight well now you have a fight against Max Holloway a BMF title fight uh on UFC 300 how are we feeling about that how are we feeling that we have booked a fight against Max Holloway in April yeah I mean I’m I’m pumped you know I fight for a living um you know I love being under those lights especially UFC 300 card something this this historic you know against a a veteran and and a legit Legend like Max Holloway so yeah I mean it’s great opportunity these are these are the good old days you know these are great stories I’m G to be able to tell um and yeah I mean all four of us me Oliva s hukan Max hallay we’re all gonna fight on the same night there’s going to be two contenders coming out that night and I think makach is looking to fight twice so I think both guys that get a win are going to fight him this year who fights him first I worry about that April 14th um getting a win is is the the only thing that matters right now so I think um I think it’s a good opportunity for all of us you know especially for me if I was going to get passed up now I got a chance to go out there and and uh you know have a say in it and so yeah I’m excited about it yeah I mean that’s the obvious question right is that if if Islam fights twice you know I think a lot of us would say like even if you weren’t fighting Max Holloway that one of those fights is going to be against Justin gatei so in a way it feels like you’re kind of putting that spot um on the line here is was that a consideration when you were talking about this fight I think that I mean I think it is I think that’s the case but you know we’ve we’ve seen with uh so many examples of guys waiting and and kind of taking their time and waiting for that shot and and things not working out you know B muhammd just went through it he’s going through it um you know I think if you have a chance you know I thought the PO fight was a title Eliminator fight you know I thought the winner of that fight was the winner of that fight was going to fight but winner of Olivera and Mev when they fought on October 18th Olivera got hurt and it kind of just you know threw a wrench into to all the plans so we’re back uh back trying to figure it out I think uh I think there was a clear path now you know with that injury with vinoski stepping in it just kind of reset things and we you know again all four of us have a chance to stake our claim and that’s what I’m going out there to do yeah and you’re a veteran you understand how this game works but uh I also know that that obviously you want that belt like that’s the kind of the the the crowning thing that you have not quite tasted yet you’ve had the interim belt but you haven’t had the Undisputed one and yeah um has that been tough like to be like a cut on uh Charles Al Vera’s eyebrow is has has really thrown this whole thing into a loop because you could be fighting for the belt you know now had that not happened I would have fought him I would have fought him in February I would have thought I mean I was told not by I mean by specific people but you know nonchalantly and it was just a verbal thing but that I was going to fight the winner that fight in February and then he got hurt and yeah really things up so something I cannot control I do not I’m not going to sit around and and let it beat me up because it it does suck but it’s one at a time and it’s the next one you know your your next one is the most important your last one is all that matters um that’s all people remember you by so luckily I had a good knockout last time I got a you know good good nice taste in these uh in the fans mouth and they want to see me again and and uh you know I I watch I read I read online and you know I know that people want a fresh face to fight Mev um you know there’s also the other side that says You’ lost twice and for the belt why why again I did what I had to do I beat I beat a top you know number seven number six I’m not sure what he was up and cumber knocked out number two and it is what it is that’s where I’m at so I’m excited for this fight again you know the cut on the eye [ __ ] it up but now I have a chance to go there and and take my claim so I’m going to do that yeah and I believe you that you’re excited for this fight I mean you are an Entertainer I know that and the stage is obviously probably going to be the biggest stage of the Year UFC 300 did you feel though at the end of the day like like like what was there was there this feeling that you kind of had to take this fight um I know that you wanted to and and that you’re excited for it but did you kind of feel like you had to or did you feel like a choice I would say yes but not not by the UFC I would say you know for myself I don’t think I was you know I’m 35 years old just turned 35 years old in November um I’m going to be 36 this next November and if I don’t take this fight you know and uh I might not fight till November November December I think Mia’s probably gonna aim to fight June or July and November December and so you know if he was gonna fight that fight I wouldn’t have fought till I was 36 years old and I wouldn’t have had one fight in my uh you know in my ripe age of 35 years old so yeah I think it’s and again with the cut on the eye with everything kind of being reset a perfect opportunity for any one of us to stand out and when when Dana announced that fight between Charles and Arman he said that the winner of this will get a title fight did you have any reaction to that have been like hey man okay if it’s Charles maybe that makes sense but if arman’s gonna jump me like did you have any reaction to that yeah I mean I think again we’ve been here so many times where they say one thing and then someone gets a cut in their eye a fight goes a specific way um it’s a draw it’s a no contest there’s so many factors that can happen and so yeah I mean again I thought that me and porier were I’m pretty sure that he said actually I can’t say but I want to say that I thought that he said that that was a title Eliminator fight um I fought that fight I got a knockout in the second round beautiful knockout Beautiful Finish against the number two guy in the world a veteran in Dustin porier and I’m pretty sure he said it I’m not going to hold him to it because I love the fact that anything can change in this my life quarter mile at a time that’s how I’ve lived since day one so the fact that everything keeps you know mumblin and jumbling I’m okay with it because it’s it’s one day at a time for me do you uh so what you’re saying makes sense like if Islam fights in the summer and then he fights at the end of the year he’s probably going to fight the the two winners of these two fights do you want to be first or would you rather would you rather win this fight and then and then get your shot at the end of the year do you want a quick turnaround and I know that obviously we don’t know how the fight’s going to go but which one you want the shot first I I can’t say that I that I do and but I mean I’m going to be in great shape you know I’m going to be right out of this training camp straight into another training camp if that was the case um but again you know they want to ideally they want to do alliv Vera suuki in the winner so they fight him in June July and I fight the winner of that fight November December you know again things have to work out someone has to someone has to win definitively even though that happened and they want to give Charles the fight again makes no sense but we’ll see we’ll see how we’ll see how it all plays out I think um think it’s fun I think it’s an exciting exciting day again 10 days ago I didn’t know I was taking this fight um and then I woke up one day and I was and so now I’m doing interviews with you and Kevin and it’s game time so I’m back I’m in the gym it’s 12 12 weeks was this last Saturday and I’m I’m working uh I would like to get your opinion on uh Max’s chin because it’s it a lot of people I mean obviously it’s it’s uh built up a reputation you know that this guy can really really take a shot um obviously you’re a very very trained eye I mean more trained and you’re in the gym so you know more than anybody like what do you see when you see Max’s chin his durability like what leads to that is is he taking those shots head on or is he good at rolling with them like what what has led to him being so durable over the course of yeah I mean yeah so it’s your ability to see punches first you know um you know being a in a semi relaxed State when those strikes are landing and and seeing it and and then rolling with the punch yeah those are skills that that he’s be like water you know Bruce Lee said it um nobody knows what it means but you could feel it when you’re in there and and you’re going with you know physics is everything that’s going on in there his ability to create angles roll with punches see shots yeah his you know the amount of experience he’s had in that cage allows him to be comfortable in you know if you’re scared you’re going to hesitate if you hesitate you know you’re going to get knocked out he’s not scared um he accepts whatever is going to happen and he’s you know he believes that he can see his shots you got to you got to trust that you can see the shots and if you’re seeing the shots then you know you have to you have to trust it until that one lands and you have no idea but you don’t you don’t go in there and worry about that you know he’s not he’s not worried about getting knocked out he wants to be the best boxer in the UFC and he’s out there performing you know when that happens I don’t think it has anything to do with like physical traits I think it’s your ability to see the shots coming I feel like you know every time Max fights and especially against a hard hitter like yourself like that stat gets brought up like this guy has had such a long career but he’s never been knocked out like do you care one way or another or is that for the rest of us like to make graphics about on Instagram and to talk about on the broadcast or would it really mean something to you to be the first guy to do this and and you think about all the guys that he’s fought over the course of his career yeah I mean it would you know I 25 wins I have 20 Knockouts I’m pretty proud of that um that’s one thing that that I’ve tried to sustain through my career um purposely so yeah that’s something that I’m shooting for uh same thing with Tony Ferguson nobody had ever finished him I didn’t knock him out in a traditional way but I certainly created enough damage and caused enough damage for that fight to to be rightfully stopped so I think um I would rather not get there here promise you that um but I do think uh this guy you know this could be a this could be a war you know this could be a battle of attrition you know if I can’t find him can’t hurt him then he he never stops and he’s constantly creating angles and constantly creating pressure and it could be a could be a tough fight you know if I can’t find his timing early um momentum is everything in there so game that we play from the start and we’re trying to win that momentum and then and gain momentum and keep momentum the whole time so we’ll see how it goes down it’s 25 minutes in time I’m not sure if you know how many minutes are in between now and then but it’s 2000 and I’m going to be perfect you know work on being perfect for 25 and not letting any of that happen so I know you were always prepared for war and that’s like I mean that was for a long thing that that’s why you don’t take short notice fights because you want to be um very very well prepared so you’re always well prepared for a fight but when you do know like do you feel that when you’re like during training camp like what you just said this fight could be a war I mean just based on what you’ve seen out of him like does that enter your mind more so when you have a specific guy in front of you that’s like that or or does that not really you don’t really feel that during camp I mean if I’m being honest with you which unfortunately I always am it’s a weird little every single a every single opponent is going to bring something different that you’re going to worry about um with po it was you know his precision and power with with fiz it was his speed and his power and you know those are scary those are scary and being scared is something that really does make you work harder um when I look at Max it’s not that I’m not scared of him because again like the worst way to lose is going to be to be overwhelmed and be you know consumed by his pressure in in the middle you know on the world stage that would be terrible and so that’s what’s going to drive me but you know not being scared is you know probably not a good thing and I am scared but I can’t find fear in thinking about the fight and so I I’m GNA have to really try to battle that this whole camp and if I get knocked out this will be a funny joke but it just is what it is you know it’s a constant battle every single guy that I’m going to face bring something different and you know the last majority of these people it’s it’s power and Max precision and and and quantity and that’s a different way to lose and different way to fight so yeah I’m G to be prepared um and I gota I gotta battle that that thought of you know even if even if it’s not like direct physical danger like it’s still a very very dangerous situation so I got a it’s just a weird I don’t know how to explain it no you explained it really well I mean I was I wrapped my head around that like I guess I guess in a way like you would prefer that fear right because you can’t really manufacture fear either you have fear you can’t I can’t like and in those fights I was you know doing I was down in my basement running on the treadmill sitting in the sauna because I knew that if I lost this fight it was over and uh to these guys and the way that you lose to these guys it was absolutely over and there’s only one way I lose I don’t lose another way that’s how I go out and so I knew that so that was scary you know especially coming off the losses especially having to come back you know coming off the loss in the Olivera fight those two fights were huge and this is just as big if I lose this fight it’s probably over as well you know that’s how I approach te and so the fear needs to be as as great but it’s a challenge well you know obviously some of the headlines that have been made about this already and this was like before the the fight was made is that you don’t really want to fight Max Hollow you like him too much is that something that goes out the window like instantly like the second you sign the fight like you’re done or do you still kind of feeling that no no I have the good thing is I’ve really learned that I don’t even have to have any e will against any of these guys to try to to to do what I need to do in the cage um Nick n that one I did not enjoy but yeah it doesn’t matter like once we’re in there it’s just it’s a game you know and they chose to play the game it’s like this is the game that I chose to play in life and this is the game that we both play so I think um I respect him um just as much as I always have it’s crazy because I say I’m a huge fan of him and I grew up watching him I’m older than him I’m like two and a half two years older than him but I did grow up watching him you know I was just turned Pro when he was started fighting I think I had three three professional fights when he started fighting in the UFC when he fought Dustin porier um and I did I you know from 2012 to 2016 when I was making my run through World Series and when I was trying to get into World Series and and make my name I was watching this guy you know I was watching all his big fights he had his biggest fights through those times and so it’s been crazy you know cowboy Cerrone was a guy that I I knew well not well but I knew you been around then I had to fight him I did not enjoy it but had no issues because again you know he signed the line and signed out line and the same same goes for Max I’ve never actually personally met him you know like and had conversations with him outside of being in my car in but that was a long time ago lots of punches and I do remember that that was cool um again I was a huge fan of him at that time you know what I mean like he had he was three or four fights into his UFC run um I was just starting just showed up at the gym just moved down to Denver was living in a shitty ass my mom cried when she came to my apartment that’s how bad it was um and yeah and I you know I was just as happy then as I am now this whole ride has been actually just so crazy um and to fight Max is is cool you know I’m going to enjoy it how do you think um man because for a long time it’s been like you Dustin Charles at the top of this Division and now it’s like this is not really your fight I think your fight for this one was like pH phiv a guy who was coming up and now Charles is fighting Armon and Dustin’s gonna fight uh benois ston yeah think how do you think those guys are going to are going to Faire I I love I love it you know some someone’s when when St Den was calling me out I was like why why you know call out porier that’s the fight and and I love that that fight’s happen that’s the fight that he should be taking number three vers you know and he he deserves a he deserves a shot the top five and that’s the perfect guy you know guy coming off a loss I just won you know I just beat the number one guy I’m gonna fight above me that’s how this works he beats porier he gets to fight someone above him top three so I don’t know how the fights are going to go I do believe the I do believe that the uh the St den and 48 fight is very similar to me and fiz have these young guys that are full of confidence super hungry you know not sleeping in silk sheets um going against guys that have been here have been proven have made money fought Conor McGregor twice you know there’s just two different two different athletes walking into that cage you know one one wise older and wiser and then a young hungry bulldog and that’s what I fought in fizzy of and and these guys are dangerous fighting is crazy you know 10% chance is a factor all times so we’ll see I think uh chance is on his side I think he’ll be fighting for human all these guys will be right out there you know before we know it they’re already here yep last thing uh just about this BMF title in general um what is it what has it become to you I mean now you’re defending the thing which we haven’t seen before like is this like a real thing is this like a real thing to you do you feel like a champion of a kind of sort of a different division you know like like do you do you do you have some identity in this thing or is it just kind of a promoting tool for the [Music] UFC I think the fans are like such a big big part of what we do you know and their acceptance of something like that is a huge Factor uh and I think that you know since I’ve won that fight I have noticed a difference there’s no doubt about it you know the way um I’m almost treated like a champion like I am a champion and so like that’s weird to it’s a little bit weird to me you know I’m enjoying it but yeah it is it is what it is I don’t [Applause] [Music] know