Fantasy Fight: Could Gaethje finally ‘end’ McGregor?

By The Capital Sports Report Staff

The war of words between Justin Gaethje and Conor McGregor has been going on for a while now. Both of them are coming off the back of very impressive victories, which makes a potential fight between the two even more mouth-watering. The existing narrative is further inflamed by the latest war of words between the two fighters.

For his part, McGregor has taken a few shots at Gaethje on Twitter by saying he would “butcher” him and “put his teeth on a necklace” – in addition, he more bluntly told Gaethje that he was “dead”. This was added with a range of colorful language intended to get a reaction from Gaethje. So far, it has been one-way traffic, although the irony of this is that Gaethje tried to use the same tactic last year, in order to gain a fight with McGregor before he fought Donald Cerrone.

UFC Fighter Conor McGregor poses during a ceremonial weigh-in for UFC 229 before his bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov
Conor McGregor poses during a ceremonial weigh-in for UFC 229 before his bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov (Getty Images)

Is a fight going to happen?

There is no doubt that ‘Gaethje v McGregor’ would be a hit, inside and outside the octagon. Yet there is currently one big stumbling block to any match up between the two, and that is Khabib Nurmagomedov. After Gaethje’s surprise defeat of Tony Ferguson via a brutal knockout, he is next in line to fight Khabib, with a bout reportedly set for September.

Should Gaethje fight Khabib as planned, much of the pre-fight focus within the latest live UFC betting markets will be on Khabib’s win method. However, Gaethje – as a sure outsider against Khabib – would want to take his shot at being the lightweight champion more than anyone Khabib has yet faced. Regardless, he would need to wholly ignore McGregor’s words, lest they distract him from another historic victory.

The overhead view of the octagon during the UFC 229 event
Overhead view of the octagon during the UFC 229 event. Who will step into the Octagon next with Khabib? (Photo by Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC)

McGregor’s limited options a consideration

The latest war of words arguably exists because McGregor is lacking in options on where he can get a big payday. Khabib isn’t going to fight him again yet, so the Irishman is trying to goad Gaethje into fighting him next instead of going for the title. While McGregor may not seem quite as untouchable as he once was, many UFC fans in Europe would still assert that the Dubliner is still the biggest name in the sport, and can still call the shots as he once seemingly did.

With Ali Abdelaziz being the manager of both Khabib and Gaethje, a conflict of interest may further complicate matters. Another problem is that Khabib and Gaethje simply aren’t interested in McGregor at this time, although the latter man is reportedly open to a bout. Both of them want to fight each other next. Khabib doesn’t think that McGregor has earned the rematch and Gaethje doesn’t want to give up his chance to become the world champion.

If McGregor wants to fight either of them, he may have to be uncharacteristically patient. As for the identity of McGregor’s ‘comeback’ opponent (if any), record KO time holder Jorge Masvidal would be a good matchup, as would Nate Diaz, especially with UFC fans still calling for the completion of the McGregor/Diaz trilogy, with the ‘series’ tied at 1-1.

Gaethje vs. McGregor – hypothetical fight predictions

Many fans are choosing to take McGregor’s earlier retirement pledge with a pinch of salt, and believe that a comeback is inevitable. If they do come to blows, who would come out on top?

The answer to that question may come from Dustin Poirier. He has fought both men in the past, recording a first-round loss to McGregor in 2014 and a fourth-round win against Gaethje the same year. When asked who he thought would be the winner, he unsurprisingly opted for McGregor.

Yet, with all four of McGregor’s professional losses in MMA coming via submission, Gaethje would surely target this area using his strong wrestling skills, which are based on an impressive college wrestling career. His foundational fighting discipline is an area that Gaethje has rarely showcased in the UFC, instead opting for the striking game so famously preferred by McGregor.

That itself adds further difficulty towards calling such an intriguing bout. As McGregor is one of the best strikers out there, it would perhaps be wise for Gaethje to go back to his wrestling roots and aim for the submission. Frustrating McGregor might be key, with the fight likely to be won by the more composed combatant.

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