Gaethje will defend the ‘Baddest Motherf*****’ title against Holloway at UFC 300 in April, in a lightweight bout scheduled for five rounds.
The fight marks Holloway’s second contest at 155lbs in the UFC, after the former featherweight champion failed to win the interim lightweight belt in 2019. Gaethje himself is a former interim lightweight champion, and he won the ‘BMF’ belt by knocking out Dustin Poirier last year.
It was Poirier who outpointed Holloway at lightweight six years ago, and the latter will hope for a smoother experience at 155lbs on 13 April, when he fights Gaethje. American Gaethje, meanwhile, will hope for a win over the Hawaiian to secure a third shot at the undisputed lightweight title.
“I kind of talked this [Holloway fight] into existence on accident,” Gaethje, 35, told Kevin Iole on Thursday (25 January). “I said I didn’t want to punch Max Holloway, but, ‘He’s also a guy that could fight for a BMF belt.’ That turns out into [...] having to punch Max Holloway. It’s the name of the game, and I am the best in the world at creating damage.
“The last two fights, I have been very tactical and very, very, very methodical in my approach. I think that obviously I’m going to continue to do that, and if I can do that, then it’s going to be very hard for Max to overwhelm me and put me in positions where I shouldn’t be.”
After knocking out Poirier in July, Gaethje expected his next fight to be a title shot against lightweight king Islam Makhachev. However, the UFC this month announced a No 1 contender’s bout between Charles Oliveira and Arman Tsarukyan, which will take place on the same night as Gaethje vs Holloway.
“It’s always funny how it works out,” Gaethje said. “You always think it’s going to go one way, and you can never guess what’s going to happen with the UFC. Once the Oliveira and Tsarukyan fight got announced, I was really confident that I was going to get the Makhachev fight, because I figured: Obviously there is nobody else to fight him.
“I don’t know what’s going on. Some injury or something, but he’s not going to fight until June or July, I guess. I was under the impression that [...] the fight with Dustin Poirier was as much a title eliminator as this Tsarukyan and Oliveira fight is. Now, me fighting on the same card as those guys, I’m going to be obviously above them. All four of us – you know, me, Max, Tsaruykan, Oliveira – we all got a chance to stand out.
“I think it’s a great opportunity, I think it’s second-best. Obviously if they lined me up with Makhachev, that’s the best-case scenario. Second-best scenario is I get to fight for it, and that’s the scenario I’m in. I get to go in there, I get to stand out. There’s going to be two contenders coming out that night. So, we’ll see what happens after that.”
Gaethje failed to unify the lightweight titles against Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2020, losing to the Russian via submission. Khabib then retired from MMA, before Oliveira won the vacant belt in 2021. The Brazilian forfeited the gold one day before a planned defence against Gaethje in 2022, after narrowly missing weight. Gaethje was still eligible to win the gold against Oliveira but lost via submission.
Holloway, 32, won the UFC featherweight title from Jose Aldo in 2017 and retained the belt three times before losing it to Alexander Volkanovski in 2019. Volkanovski remains the champion to this day.
Holloway last fought in August, knocking out “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung and sending the fan favourite into retirement.