Justin Gaethje beat his friend in the main event of Saturday’s UFC card in Vancouver but took no pleasure in doing so.
Shortly after finally prompting the referee to step in and stop his onslaught on a downed Donald Cerrone in the first round, Gaethje loudly complained to the official for waiting so long to halt the contest.
“Yeah, I mean. The ref in the back said if you fall to your face, it’s over,” Gaethje said after getting his hand raised for the ground strikes TKO victory.
“I thought he fell like that two times...that was my friend, I didn’t want to do that to him, I’ll be honest with you.”
Gaethje also heaped praised onto Cerrone before calling dibs on the winner of the fight that should be next for the UFC’s lightweight title — Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson.
The 30-year-old was asked about another fight before his potential shot at the title - taking on Irishman Conor McGregor.
Despite criticising former champion Conor McGregor publicly for his repugnant behaviour leading up to this fight, Gaethje was brutally dismissive of the Irishman's current standing in the UFC.
“The Irishman’s retired. I want a real fighter,” he announced.
When pressed about the whether he would be interested in a fight with McGregor during a post-fight segment, Gaethje said he'd be keen to knock McGregor out if he agreed to the bout.
Unsurprisingly, McGregor sent out a tweet a short time after Gaethje's win - further fuelling speculation about a mouthwatering showdown between the pair.
Gaethje v. Conor??? Got to make that now.— Deke Zucker (@Barstool_Quotes) September 15, 2019
Conor/Gaethje is next, I think. It's gotta be. #UFCVancouver— Robbie Fox (@RobbieBarstool) September 15, 2019
Gaethje vs. Conor is the fight to make. Guaranteed fireworks. Make that happen 👊#UFCVancouver— Shafayet Hossain (@shafat____) September 15, 2019
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) September 15, 2019
Conor McGregor vs. Justin Gaethje
Cowboy Cerrone vs. Dustin Poirier
That seems like a bunch of really amazing lightweight fights to me. #UFCVancouver
the only reason i’d want to see gaethje v mcgregor is so gaethje can send conor into retirement :/🤷♀️ #UFCVancouver— Miss WHODAT ⚜️ (1-0) (@mtjfwt) September 15, 2019
Let’s see McGregor Gaethje next.— Eric S Skelton Sr (@ericskeltonsr) September 15, 2019
Gaethje would make McGregor sleep within 4 minutes. #UFCVancouver— Cocaine Velasquez aka Yay Mysterio (@YayoTheCaveman) September 15, 2019
Gaethje impresses in win over UFC legend
From the onset of his win in Vancouver, Gaethje connected with left hooks and right crosses to the head of Cerrone, as well as rear roundhouse kicks to the lead leg of his friend and opponent.
A left hook to the head on the inside was the first big strike landed of the night for Gaethje. Cerrone would go on to counter a leg kick with punches to the head.
Gaethje landed another left hook to the head and rear roundhouse to the lead leg of Cerrone before the two traded right hands up top. Gaethje soon landed another right hand, leg kick and left hook to the head.
Setting the pace and controlling distance, Gaethje landed another left hook and right cross to the head before also landing a right uppercut and another left hook to the head that wobbled Cerrone. A check left hook and right cross punch combo stunned Cerrone, before another right dropped him to the mat.
Once face-down and turtled up, effectively defenseless, Gaethje paused and looked to the referee to stop the fight. Instead, the referee watched on and Gaethje appeared to reluctantly though still brutally land more follow-up punches to the prone Cerrone.
Afterward, Gaethje expressed his displeasure at the referee for allowing Cerrone to take far more punches than he needed to, and a stunned, dazed Cerrone complained about the stoppage being too soon, in his opinion.
The end came at 4:18 of the first round. The two then embraced and shared kind words after the fight.
For Cerrone, it is his second TKO stoppage loss in the past three months, his third fight since May and his fourth battle, overall, this year. Through a winced right eye, a wide smile and with slurred speech, Cerrone praised Gaethje.
“You did such an amazing job,” he told Gaethje, with an arm around him.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t continue. I don’t know what was going on. This kid’s a stud. It’s very hard to fight a friend.”
Cerrone’s record fell to 36-13 with the defeat. Gaethje’s win is his third-straight, and improves his ledger to 21-2.
With Yahoo Sports US