Justin Gaethje was a “BMF” the first day he got into a cage to train in mixed martial arts. He was a dynamo from the start, a fast, hard whirlpool who banged like brass knuckles and was willing to absorb insane amounts of punishment to dole out his own brand of violence.
Fighting like this day after day, fight after fight, year after year, will earn us a reputation. He didn’t need Nate Diaz to come up with the idea of a belt that would identify who is the “baddest motherfucker” in the UFC, because he was always a BMF.
Diaz and Jorge Masvidal faced off in Madison Square Garden at UFC 244 in New York City on November 2, 2019, for what became known as “The BMF” belt. Masvidal won after the referee stopped the fight because of cuts on Diaz’s face. Actor and wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson presented Masvidal with the belt with then-President Donald Trump sitting next to the cage.
It was supposed to be a one-off fight, but one day, in a matchmaking bout, UFC President Dana White and his team started brainstorming ideas for a fight. Someone had the idea of a rematch between Gaethje and Dustin Poirier. It was a no-brainer as they are both among the elite lightweights in the world and had an amazing fight on April 4, 2018, in Glendale, Arizona.
But then came the idea of disputing the BMF title. And even though it was a one-off title match, White loved the idea.
“Who could say they have a problem with these two guys fighting for this belt?” White told Yahoo Sports.
This fight is so good that it stands on its own and doesn’t need a title to back it up, but the fighters themselves like the idea.
“I wouldn’t feel like the world champion but this is something special,” Gaethje told Yahoo Sports. “It’s an iconic title. Only two people in the world have fought for it. We’ll be the second two fighting for it, so it’s iconic and I think it does something for the legacy. I think it’s great.”
Gaethje earned the nickname “The Human Highlight” for his incredible MMA exploits. He went 7-4 in his 11 UFC fights to increase his overall MMA record to 24-4. In the UFC, he has won Fight of the Night six times and Performance of the Night four times.
Your fights are always exciting.
But Gaethje has been trying to be a little less fun. Going into full berserker mode helps build a huge fan base, which Gaethje did. But it also exposes you to more damage, which can shorten a career and has led to some losses.
He captured the interim lightweight title when he fought a disciplined fight against Tony Ferguson on May 9, 2020, in Jacksonville, Florida in the main event of UFC 249. And while it might not seem that way to some, he’s pretty much tried to keep that style going ever since.
He learned his lesson and said that the fight against Poirier will be fun, but he won’t risk it unnecessarily.
“My best performances were against Tony Ferguson, Michael Chandler and in my last fight against [Rafael] Fiziev,” said Gaethje. “In all of them, I fought a tactical fight and I really have to rely on that process. My coaches have worked hard to instill that in me over the past two or so years, and when I fight like that is when I’m at my best.”
He said he thought his victory over Fiziev was probably his best performance yet, although he couldn’t help but put the Ferguson and Chandler fights alongside them. Yahoo Sports named his fight with Chandler as the 2021 MMA Fight of the Year.
There has never been a boring Justin Gaethje fight, but he believes he has found a sweet spot now. He looks back at the way he’s fought in a few other fights and it’s left him shaking his head.
He lost Fight of the Night battles to Eddie Alvarez at UFC 218 and Poirier in back-to-back fights for not fighting under control.
“If you take how I fought Fiziev and of course Ferguson and Chandler as well, there’s just as much of a difference in the way I approached those fights as the way I fought Poirier the first time and Eddie Alvarez and Michael Johnson,” said Gaethje. “I had such a different feeling when I was up there against [Ferguson, Chandler and Fiziev] than there was in those other fights.
“O [first] The Poirier fight was, at the time, my longest fight. And at that point in my career, I was just an absolute berserker. I knew his leg was compromised [after three rounds]. I felt like I needed to go out and kick him in the leg a few more times, but fighting these guys at this level, you can’t be narrow-minded like that.”
The gist of it for Gaethje is, fight a little smarter and not only will he continue to be seen as a BMF, he will also add the title of “BMF”.