Following his knockout victory over Justin Gaethje at UFC 218 earlier this month, Eddie Alvarez proclaimed himself the promotion’s “most violent man”, but one has to wonder if even the brutal knee that felled Gaethje that night was enough to knock the crown of violence from the 29-year-old’s head.
In just two fights, Gaethje has proved to UFC fans what observers of his WSOF run already knew – he is must-see TV. The Arizona native’s blood-curdling battle with Michael Johnson back in July is the front-runner for ‘Fight of the Year’ honours and his bout with Alvarez is also likely to feature in most ‘honourable mention’ sections.
When Gaethje signed with the UFC earlier this year, his record was a perfect one, but unlike most unbeaten fighters he wasn’t married to that 0 on his ledger, nor all that confident that it would remain in place for very long.
In fact, ‘The Highlight’ promised that he would get KO’d sooner or later.
His almost fatalistic outlook is perhaps one of the key ingredients in the cocktail that makes him such a fan-friendly fighter. He doesn’t fear defeat and this can be seen quite clearly in his reckless, all-action style.
This outlook and the joy he takes in providing entertainment, it seems, has also helped Gaethje cope quite well with the first setback of his MMA career, at either amateur of professional level.
“Looking back, it lived up to the hype,” Gaethje said of the Alvarez fight on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I told people before that I had the ‘Fight of the Year’ until I fought again, and that’s what I do. It’s what I do every time. I get a bonus every time, and man, I really had a lot of fun in there. That’s first and foremost. It was the time of my life. Honestly, being in front of that many people, being able to put my skills on the line at the highest level on a pay-per-view, all of those things, it was a dream come true for me(via MMAFighting).”
“I have to keep reminding myself that I lost,” he continued. “I don’t know. I signed up for this. I said it before, I said it many times, that I was going to lose (eventually). If I lost, I hoped that I would get knocked out. All of those things came true. I love the sport, I’m a fan of MMA, I’ve been a fan of MMA since before I started it, I was a fan of Eddie Alvarez before I started fighting, so just the culmination of events that have transpired in my life through hard work, through specifically hard work, it’s just, I’m happy. I’m happy for myself. I’m happy for my family. I’ve been trying to prepare my mom and sisters for all of that for a long time, so when it did happen, they were like, ‘Well, you’ve kinda prepared us for this.’ So it wasn’t that bad.”
“I couldn’t break him. I broke 18 people in a row. And on my 19th fight, I found someone that I could not break, and I enjoyed it. I appreciated it.”
“I’m happy to get it over with, I’ll be honest with you,” Gaethje added, when asked if his maiden defeat would relieve any pressure going forward. “In hindsight, I’d love to be undefeated still, but that’s not what this sport is. Now we can actually focus on what I do good, my timing, my attitude. I’m a wrestler and I just boxed with one of the best pure MMA boxers I think there is, so I’m happy with my skills, I’m happy with my coaches, I’m happy with the life I chose and all of that.”
Another characteristic of Gaethje’s UFC run thus far has been his willingness to say things that other fighters might not – like the previously referenced promise that he would eventually suffer a KO defeat – and a wonderfully endearing honesty. Thus, while it wasn’t surprising that the warrior in Gaethje dragged him from the canvas after he ate the conclusive knee from Alvarez and initially protested the stoppage, it also didn’t come as a shock to hear the fighter commend the referee’s decision in the end.
The savage slugger also revealed the rather amusing details of how he realized that veteran referee Herb Dean had made the right call.
“When he threw that knee, it was perfect timing, perfect spot,” Gaethje admitted. “He kind of rope-a-doped me. We were sitting there, not relaxing, but I kinda got relaxed for a second because I was so comfortable in the clinch right there, landing those hard uppercuts, and I think we were talking to each other, like, ‘Aha, good one, good one,’ and I was like, ‘Ah, f*ck, you’re bringing it all. I’m right here.’ And I think that’s when he kneed me, or it was pretty close to that. But man, I loved it. I love what I do.”
“I retained that whole fight. I lost probably like 10 seconds,” he added, when asked if he remembered getting knocked out. “I remember seeing his arms up and then I saw the referee waving it off, and I thought for a second the fight was over, time had run out, and then I realized that [the referee] had stopped it. I thought I was fine and I got up — because in the back, I told the ref that if I lost, I wanted to go to sleep, which, I still want to apologize to the ref for that, because I feel like I shouldn’t be putting him in that position. But yeah, I got up, and I saw his hands up and I saw him waving them, and I tried to tell the ref, ‘You son of a b*tch!’
“But every time I got to the ‘b*tch,’ I couldn’t say it. I was like, ‘You son of a b—, you son of a b— … okay, good stoppage, good stoppage.’ So yeah, I remember all of it. It was crazy. I’ve been worse off after other fights, I’ll tell you that.”
While Alvarez is now looking toward a mega-fight, Gaethje will have to rebuild. But with his exciting style and amiable, quirky personality, there will be plenty of interest in the rebuilding process.
You can watch the full interview below…