Justin Gaethje, the explosive lightweight fighter, has revealed his timeline for retirement, emphasizing that he won't risk his health forever. With over a decade in MMA under his belt, Gaethje understands the inevitable reality that no fighter can compete indefinitely. In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, he outlined his ideal future in the sport.
At 34 years old, Gaethje believes that three more years would be an appropriate timeframe before bidding farewell to the world of MMA.
“I would like to say that at 37 I would like to not be doing this anymore,” Gaethje said. “I’m 34 now. Two, three years is a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that long. I’ve been doing this 12, 13 years. So ultimately it is the backend of my career in this sport. That’s just the train of thought I have.”
Currently gearing up for his main event clash against Justin Gaethje at UFC 291 next month, Gaethje aims to avenge his 2018 loss. While no official world title will be up for grabs in Salt Lake City, Utah, the coveted "BMF" title awaits the victor.
Gaethje is well aware of the dangers of overstaying one's welcome in the fight game, witnessing fighters who suffered unnecessary damage due to lingering past their prime. Conversely, he's also seen talented individuals leave prematurely. Gaethje hopes that retiring in three years will strike a harmonious balance between these two scenarios.
“I’ve been a huge fan of this sport. I’ve followed so many athletes. I’ve seen examples of people fighting too long, people quitting too early, [and] people stopping at just the right moment. I’d like to fall into that just the right moment situation.”
Regarded as a fan favorite, Gaethje's aggressive style has earned him a remarkable 11 fight night bonuses, placing him among the promotion's all-time leaders in that category. As a long-time competitor in the UFC's lightweight division, his recent victory over Rafael Fiziev has propelled him to third place in the division's official rankings.
Gaethje makes no secret of his primary motivation: winning the world title. While the forthcoming "BMF" belt he's competing for does not count, a shot at the ultimate championship is what fuels his passion. If that opportunity seems elusive, Gaethje may consider his exit from the sport.
“As soon as I don’t believe I can be the best in the world with the skills I possess, then I don’t see any reason to go in there and risk what we’re risking with each and every fight,” he said.
Having held the interim title in 2020 after defeating Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, Gaethje faced a title unification loss against Khabib Nurmagomedov later that year. Another championship opportunity came his way, but he was bested by Charles Oliveira in a bout last year.
With Gaethje's retirement clock ticking, fans can expect the lightweight powerhouse to leave no stone unturned as he sets his sights on victory and potentially the world title. As his storied career approaches its final chapter, Gaethje's explosive fighting style and relentless pursuit of greatness continue to captivate fans around the globe.