Justin Gaethje came in as heavy betting underdog when he stepped into the octagon to fight Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson in the main event of UFC 249. Gaethje then bamboozled fight fans all across the globe with a stunning performance in which he brutalized Ferguson with some heavy shots that would have put anybody else completely out. In the fifth and final round, a bloodied Ferguson was again hit by big punches by Justin as referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight. Gaethje did not just win this essential title eliminator bout but also got his hands on the UFC interim lightweight belt. However, he refused to accept the title and even walked out of the octagon without it.
It should be noted that the lightweight title belts have long been considered as a joke by many fighters and fans alike. Their legitimacy has always been under question.
Gaethje did not accept the interim belt and in fact, as he walked out of the octagon empty-handed, his coach had to instead carry the title belt out.
You can check the video of him walking out of the octagon without a belt down below:
— MMA Junkie (@MMAjunkie) May 10, 2020
Fighters like Israel Adesanya and Eddie Alvarez have long been vocal critics of interim title belts
In an interview back in March before his first official undisputed title defense against Yoel Romero, Adesanya had called interim belts a ‘sick joke’. He even claimed that they do not mean anything, “If you look on my belt, it’s got one ruby that says April 11, Atlanta and then the next ruby is, October 3, I think, in Melbourne. It’s the exact same belt I got when I won my “interim title”! The exact same belt! I thought they were gonna give me a new belt that’s the ‘Undisputed Title’. But no, they just put a ruby on it. Think about it logically. Interim titles don’t mean sh*t if that’s the rule.”
Alvarez who is now at ONE Championship too had criticised the concept of interim belts as a way for UFC to pay fighters less money, “When an interim title is given and the media makes a big fuss of it and a fighter makes a big fuss of it and the fans makes a big fuss of it, an interim title has value. That’s the saddest thing that can happen in the sport. An interim title is given in replacement for money. We don’t wanna give you money, but we’ll give you an interim title. We don’t wanna give you money, but we’ll give you the main event spot. We don’t wanna give you money, but we’ll give you that opponent you want. We’ll give you everything but what you deserve, and that’s money. When that’s valued, an interim title is valued by fans, by the media, by the promotion and everyone, it’s a sick joke. And it should be laughed at and it should no longer be applauded and it should be booed. And when it is, it’ll be a happy day. Fighters get paid more, fans will be more educated, and promotions will stop the bullshit.”