The annual UFC Hall of Fame Ceremony went down in Las Vegas during International Fight Week. While former champions Daniel Cormier and Khabib Nurmagomedov drew most of the attention for their Modern Wing inductions, hard-hitting featherweights Cub Swanson and Doo Ho Choi were added to the Fight Wing.
One man whose inclusion alongside the likes of Swanson down the line is inevitable goes by a moniker that perhaps says it all: “The Highlight.”
Since entering the Octagon in 2017, Gaethje has fought 10 times, collecting a remarkable 10 bonuses along the way, including six Fight of the Nights. Essentially, when he steps into the cage, expect a potential Fight Wing-worthy contest.
His most recent outing that fit that bill came at UFC 268 last November. In the main-card opener, Gaethje and Michael Chandler lit up Madison Square Garden with a brutal three-round war that many dubbed 2021’s Fight of the Year.
Despite the widespread acclaim for his performance and the back-and-forth fans were treated to, Gaethje later admitted that he thought the fight was “boring.” With that in mind, it doesn’t come as any surprise that it’s not at the top of the 33-year-old’s list of favorite bouts.
During a red carpet media scrum at the 2022 UFC Hall of Fame Ceremony, Gaethje named which of his fights he’d like to see enter the Fight Wing. While “The Highlight” admitted that the UFC 268 barnburner is the most likely, he did have another classic in mind.
“My favorite one would be the [Michael] Johnson fight, but I’m sure it would be the Chandler fight,” Gaethje said.
Gaethje Says Johnson Fight Had The Most Meaning
In mid-2017, Gaethje vacated his World Series of Fighting championship and signed with the sport’s premier promotion. Two months later, he squared off with then-16-fight UFC veteran Michael Johnson, who was coming off a loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov.
While recency bias no doubt has many focusing their Gaethje plaudits on his recent scraps, “The Highlight” threw down from the very moment he entered the Octagon, engaging in a memorable two-round war with “The Menace” at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale.
“Johnson was my coming-out party,” Gaethje said. “And I didn’t face the adversity in the Chandler fight I faced in the Johnson fight. He hit me hard twice, should’ve knocked me out twice. But for some reason, he didn’t. Without that happening, I’m not here.”
Adversity was certainly something Gaethje faced in his very first UFC round. After eating a couple of fast lefts, the promotional newcomer was clearly hurt. Having recovered and mounted some aggressive offense, Gaethje found himself on the back foot again when a Johnson right hook came mightily close to finishing the bout, and had coach Trevor Wittman — well, smiling…
The fight-loving coach was smiling even more in the second round, as were the fans in attendance, when the fast and furious action continued. The slugfest culminated with Gaethje having his hand raised after a brutal knee to the head slumped Johnson against the cage with just over 10 seconds of the second frame remaining.
Which of Justin Gaethje’s fights do you see as UFC Hall of Fame-worthy?