Safford native son Justin Gaethje fighting for UFC Championship

Contributed Photo: Justin Gaethje last defeated Michael Chandler in a three-round unanimous decision in what was heralded as the “fight of the year.” Now the Safford native has his title shot against UFC Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveria this Saturday, at the Footprint Center in Phoenix for UFC 274.

By Jon Johnson

PHOENIX – In front of his home-town crowd, Safford’s native son Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje (23-3) will have the title shot of his life this Saturday, as he faces UFC Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira (32-8, 1 NC) at the Footprint Center headlining UFC 274. 

For those not able to attend in person, early preliminary rounds will be available to watch on ESPN with UFC  Fight Pass, with the prelims on ESPN or ESPN+ and the main card available for pay-per-view on ESPN+

The Brazilian Oliveira is on a 10-fight winning streak and has the most submissions (15) in UFC history.

Gaethje is the former UFC Interim Lightweight Champion and is the No. 1-ranked lightweight. He has won five of his last six bouts, with his only loss being in October 2020 to legendary champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in the second round by triangle choke submission.

Gaethje last fought an epic throw-down with Michael Chandler, which resulted in his ninth post-fight bonus. That non-championship fight was only scheduled for three rounds, and Gaethje recently said that was a blessing since if it had gone five rounds he might have killed him – something no fighter wants to happen in the ring.

The aforementioned Chandler will be on the undercard against Tony Ferguson, the man Gaethje beat to snag the Interim Lightweight Belt. A belt Gaethje famously tossed to the side in his quest for the Lightweight Championship Belt. 

And co-headlining will be UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Rose Namajunas (12-4) looking to avenge her loss to No. 2 – ranked Carla Esparza (19-6).