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Justin Gaethje relates to pre-UFC 257 doubt Michael Chandler faced after years in Bellator

Just like Michael Chandler, Justin Gaethje recalls being the UFC newcomer tnobody thought could hang on the big stage.

Gaethje (22-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) was able to quickly change everyone’s mind when he stopped Michael Johnson in the 2017 “Fight of the Year” and after some ups and downs, “The Highlight” has emerged as one of the best UFC lightweights.

Entering the UFC with a similar story, former three-time Bellator lightweight champion Chandler (22-5 MMA, 1-0 UFC) was chomping at the bit to prove that he’s one of the best 155 pounders in the sport.

At UFC 257, Chandler drew the tough and durable Dan Hooker, who prior to facing Chandler had never been stopped with head strikes. But in one of the most impressive promotional debuts in recent memory, Chandler was able to finish Hooker in just half a round, immediately emerging as a title contender.

Being in a similar position not too long ago, Gaethje can relate to the critics that doubted Chandler heading into his UFC debut.

“It was impressive,” Gaethje told MMA Junkie of Chandler’s debut. “I didn’t have a lot of expectations. I came from World Series (of Fighting) not too long ago and pretty much everything they were saying about Chandler, they were saying about me, as they will continue to say about guys that are not in the UFC. People don’t understand that fighting is fighting and just because you’re not in the UFC, it doesn’t mean your skills can’t hang with us on any given night.

“You’ve heard it thousands of times that anybody can beat anybody on any given night. This is one of those sports that it’s absolutely true every time you step in there. So I was impressed with his performance. I’m happy that he’s here. Again, it’s just a weird time with the champion leaving. It makes things weird. I was No. 1, now I’m No. 2, last man with the interim title, not too happy, but it is what it is, but many opportunities, big fights ahead. Life is awesome.”

With UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov still adamant on retirement, the division’s top contenders are jockeying for top position. Chandler expressed interest in a potential fight with Gaethje, but Gaethje seems open to facing just about any top-ranked contender to get back to the win column.

As long as he gets an adequate amount of time to prepare for his next fight.

“In the position I’m in, I need a win,” Gaethje said. “It could be Nate Diaz, it could be Rafael dos Anjos, it could be Charles Oliveira, it could be Michael Chandler, it could be Conor McGregor. And when I attain that win, I will then get the title shot.”

He continued, “My body’s 99 percent. Never gonna be a hundred at 32 years old, but I feel great. Mind is ready. I’m ready to get to work, put the work in. Ten to 12 weeks from whenever they call me with an opponent, that’s when I’m fighting.”

To see the full interview with Gaethje, check out the video below.

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