Justin Gaethje wants Conor McGregor or Tony Ferguson next

ATLANTA – Fresh off a highlight-reel knockout of Edson Barboza just two weeks ago, Justin Gaethje feels he’s not far off from a UFC lightweight title shot.

But he’s not about to try to cut ahead of Dustin Poirier, who claimed the interim belt in the main event of Saturday night’s UFC 236 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

Speaking to reporters, including MMA Junkie, backstage at UFC 236 prior to the night’s headliner, the former WSOF champ said he understood Saturday night’s winner fully deserves a spot against champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“I believe the winner of tonight, deservedly so, gets a shot at Khabib, and I want to put myself in position to fight the winner of that fight,” Gaethje said. “I think Tony (Ferguson) and Conor (McGregor) do that for me.”

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That said, Gaethje believes he’s earned the right to put himself in position to call “next” after the current scenario plays out, and he believes a meeting with one of two fighters who have held 155-pound gold fit the bill: Ferguson or McGregor.

In the case of former interim titleholder Ferguson, he is currently on hiatus dealing with mental health issues. But Gaethje is confident he’ll return and would like to welcome him back to the octagon.

“Tony is dealing with whatever he has to deal with,” Ferguson said. “I expect him to take as much time as he needs to come back 100 percent. I know he can come back right now. He’s a warrior, there’s no doubt about it.”

Then there’s the matter of McGregor. Everyone wants a piece of the gravy train that comes with fighting the former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion. But it seems McGregor himself, who has been plenty busy for a variety of reasons outside the cage, doesn’t know what his next move might be.

“Who (expletive) knows what’s happening with Conor?” Gaethje said. “But they either take him out of the rankings if he’s retired, or they keep him in the rankings and he has to fight somebody. If that’s me, cool. If that’s not me, cool, but there has to be some type of structure to what’s going on here. We can’t just keep floating around.”

Still, Gaethje believes that if McGregor, who hasn’t won an MMA bout since his UFC 205 victory over Eddie Alvarez 29 months ago, is going to stay in the rankings and isn’t getting a title shot, then he needs to fight either Ferguson or himself.

“I want to know what my path is, and you can’t do that by saying I’m retired and being in the rankings and being ranked ahead of me,” Gaethje said. “If you’re ranked ahead of me, you’re fighting for the title. He doesn’t deserve a title shot right now, so therefore it’s me or its Tony, and he has to pick one of us to fight.”

To hear more from Gaethje, check out the video above.

For more on UFC 236, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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