Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Justin Gaethje shows off his BMF Title Belt after defeating Dustin Poirier at UFC 291 in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.
Is another Lightweight Title shot next?
By Jon Johnson
”It doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s who you are; It’s how hard you work. The town that I grew up in had half the amount of people that were in this stadium tonight. So, you can be anything you want, you just have to work your ass off and believe in yourself.”Justin Gaethje on coming from a small town
SALT LAKE CITY – It’s official. The Gila Valley has already known for years but now it’s stamped with a title belt that Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje is the BMF of the UFC after a stunning second-round knockout of the year contender to defeat Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier and avenge his earlier loss.
Gaethje shockingly ended the contest one minute into the second round with a spectacular kick to Poirier’s head that Dustin said he never saw coming. And Gaethje did it in the spotlight in front of a sold out venue at the Delta Center of 18,467 people. The event brought in $6.5 million from the gate alone – a new Delta Center record.
The win not only solidifies Gaethje as the “most violent man in the most violent sport,” as coined by broadcaster Joe Rogan, but also puts him in the driver seat for another title shot. The effort was also rewarded with a performance of the night bonus, making 12 fight bonuses in 10 fights.
The Gila Herald caught up with Justin’s father John Ray Gaethje after the match and he was not only proud of his son’s accomplishment but glad Poirier was able to recover enough to leave on his own power.
“To me, this ranks up with probably the top two wins in his career in the UFC,” John Ray Gaethje said. “Puts him one closer to another title shot, and, more than anything, Dustin Poirier, once he got up I was so relieved. He’s good and Justin’s good – that’s the most important thing.”
Poirier had early success against Gaethje and cut him open in the first. Gaethje opened up with some leg kicks and Poirier gave him a knowing look and sent a leg kick right back. In their first meeting, Gaethje severely hurt Poirier with leg kicks.
With the crowd on his side chanting “Gaethje, Gaethje” Justin attacked but Poirier countered and seemed to have the better of the round. In the second, a chant of “Poirier, Poirier” became audible only to have the Gaethje fans come back with their own chant.
After the fight, Poirier addressed the media and said he didn’t feel as if he was done with the sport.
”It sucks, obviously but I’ve been here before,” Poirier said.
”It is what it is, man,” Poirier said. “Losing sucks.” I got hit with a shot I didn’t see. . . . I keep coming back like Pookie. Maybe I need another hit.”
Poirier is no stranger to a trilogy (see Connor McGregor), and said he would be open to facing Gaethje for a third time. He said he still feels great and still wants to content for a title belt.
Gaethje said he is not looking to appease a trilogy anytime soon but that he wouldn’t deny Poirier the chance.
”In the cage after the fight I said, ‘hey man, let’s both agree never to fight each other again unless you have to have it,’” Gaethje said. “But we’re one and one, so we’ll see. I would never deny him the opportunity just like he didn’t deny me the opportunity.”
The win and bonus make 12 bonuses in 10 fights for Gaethje, who continues to prove it doesn’t matter where you come from in his quest for a world title.
”It doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s who you are,” Gaethje said. “It’s how hard you work. The town that I grew up in had half the amount of people that were in this stadium tonight. So, you can be anything you want, you just have to work your ass off and believe in yourself.”