Five UFC fights for Justin Gaethje including Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson rematch after Khabib shock retirement10/26/2020
JUSTIN GAETHJE will once again fight for lightweight supremacy after Khabib Nurmagomedov's retirement – so who will he face?
A second-round submission defeat to the Russian ended the American's stint at UFC interim champion.
But Khabib's shock decision to announce his retirement, effective immediately, means the championship belt is back in sight.
Who Gaethje would face next is certainly a subject of speculation.
Conor McGregor's fight with Dustin Poirier in January may provide a natural opponent but there are plenty of other contenders.
Here, SunSport delves into the five most likely fighters to take on Gaethje next.
The 'Notorious' is plotting a comeback from a brief retirement next year.
With the victor of McGregor versus Poirier arguably next in line for a championship shot, he is the clear bookies' favourite for the win in January.
Gaethje is certainly open to that prospect, saying 'I’m right here' before the Irishman dubbed Gaethje 'truly embarrassing' in a deleted tweet slamming the 31-year-old's performance.
However, plans to fight Manny Pacquiao in the boxing ring may delay any UFC aspirations.
It was Gaethje's shock win over Ferguson that elevated him to the status of interim champ in the first place.
Before being parachuted in to face the 36-year-old Californian, his biggest win had come over Donald Cerrone.
Yet he secured a stunning TKO victory only weeks after replacing Khabib on the pandemic-affected card.
Ferguson has not fought since and is tipped to face ex-Bellator brawler Michael Chandler – but he recently claimed only Khabib and McGregor interested him.
Dragging Masvidal down to 155 pounds would take just one thing, according to the man himself.
Masvidal said in March that 'the moolah is going to talk' given his difficulties in even making welterweight in the past.
But the possibility of the 35-year-old fighting Gaethje may be a tempting one, especially if Ferguson, McGregor and Poirier are occupied in the early months of next year.
Masvidal fought at lightweight earlier in his career and, after losing to Kamaru Usman in July, has been knocked down the pecking order at 170lb.
Poirier was the last man to beat Gaethje before Khabib's demolition on the weekend.
A fourth-round TKO win in April 2018 set the 31-year-old on course for his own defeat to the Russian 18 months later.
And there is plenty of bad blood left between the pair, Poirier teasing Gaethje last week by remarking: 'Remember when I hit you?'.
But he will probably have to defeat McGregor to earn the rematch first.
A surprise name could be New Zealand fighter Hooker, who lost to Poirier in June.
As mentioned, January's big fight plus a potential match-up already in the works for Ferguson may mean Gaethje needs an opponent early next year ahead of any massive showdown.
Ranked fifth in UFC's official lightweight pecking order, the 30-year-old could be a contender.
Hooker called out Gaethje for a fight after being told he would get 'merked' by Poirier. Which he did, to be fair.
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