Former WSOF (now PFL) lightweight champion and #7 ranked lightweight in the UFC Justin ‘the Highlight’ Gaethje (18-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) is proving not only the most entertaining fighter on the roster but also the most honest fighter in the business.
After having only two setbacks on his undefeated career against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, Gaethje stated that he likely has five fights left in his career before retirement due to his brawling style which leads to more damage and add his roots of wrestling in his arsenal.
Gaethje in an interview with Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour, Gaethje can see the end in sight. Even if he turns only 30 this year, Gaethje feels he has absorbed quite a lot of damage since making his debut in 2011.
“I’m just telling myself that now because, for one, this is a young man’s game,” Gaethje said.
“There’s gonna be new guys coming in. Every year there’s fresh guys coming in. I happen to have a college education and I never planned on being a fighter. I went to college, I wrestled and I took some amateur fights. When I graduated, I wanted to start using my degree, but I figured I would start fighting professionally. Then I won 18 in a row and I fought Eddie Alvarez on pay-per-view.
“I don’t know, I never thought about being this far or having five fights left. I never planned this whole career that I’ve gotten myself into.”
Gaethje however has a plan as to what he wants to do after retirement. Gaethje believes he will pursue social work.
“I’m hoping to earn enough to buy a few properties, that way I can make money that way and I want to do social work. Working in a juvenile detention center, being a probation officer for at-risk youths, I’ll do something like that. Something nice and stable,” he said.
Considering his ever forward, relentless style of fighting and coming off the first two defeats of his career, Gaethje admitted that he was concerned about the health of his brain. However, Gaethje also agreed that such damage is the part and parcel of the fight game.
“Three hard fights in a row, all in the last 12 months, people have said to me that it’s something to worry about,” Gaethje said. “There are guys in the UFC now that have been knocked unconscious seven times, five times, completely unconscious. I have never gone completely unconscious yet. I have passed every single one of my impact tests after the fights.
“Of course it’s a concern, but that’s what we do. We fight for a living. If you watched the Edson (Barboza) and KevinLee fight, they took punches. Kevin Lee won but he took that huge spinning head kick and that’s not good for your brain, but it is what we do.
“I can’t go to bed every night scared or worried because this is what I signed up for. This is what I get paid to do. I try to fight twice a year so I don’t add up (the damage) too fast.”