After finding success in Colorado the past couple years, lightweight prospect Justin Gaethje had an opportunity recently to branch out and return to his home state of Arizona and fight for a Rage in the Cage title.
Gaethje did not disappoint in his homecoming.
“I went up a weight class to welterweight, so he was really big and a really strong, explosive fighter,” said Gaethje of his opponent Sam Young.
“I controlled and tried to get him up against the cage and use my wrestling as best I could. I got in a couple really good slams and at the end of the first round, I hurt him really bad with a right hand and thought I finished him, but it was only three minute rounds in Arizona and the bell rung. At the beginning of the second, he came out and I rocked him again with the right, and I got the rear naked choke.”
For Gaethje, branching out is a big step towards achieving his goal.
“I think the more people see me, they’ll like me, because I go out there and I try to finish fights,” he said. “The more places I can go to, the more fans I can pick up and hopefully I can get to the UFC and show people I can hang with the best.
“At the end of the day I’m a wrestler, and on these shows outside the UFC, I don’t think anyone can hang with my wrestling. So I just go out there and try to use what I know how to do and control the fight and get big slams. I’m just using that to hopefully put people on their heads and knock them out like that.”
While Gaethje is doing everything he can to move to the highest level possible, his success has created a problem where he’s become too dangerous. Many other fighters trying to make a name don’t want to fight him. Gaethje’s solution is to take any fights he can at any weight he can to keep moving forward.
“I went up a weight class because these big guys aren’t afraid to fight a little guy, so I can get fights at the heavier weight classes, but I don’t like fighting up in weight class, so I want to be at 155 and fight the best in the world like I know I can,” he said.
The coming months could be a turning point in Gaethje’s career, and he’s treating it as such.
“I have another fight in Arizona in a couple weeks, and there’s a Ring of Fire event in November, so I’m trying to fight every month – maybe even twice in one of these months – try to fight as many times possible and get my record up there because that’s how you get into bigger shows like Bellator, Strikeforce or the UFC,” he said.
“Those bigger shows are where I want to be and that’s where I think I should be right now.”
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