Interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje 22-2, 19 KOs, 1 SUB is on a collision course with champion Khabib Nurmagomedov 28-0, 8 KOs, 10 SUBs. The title unification bout is targeted for this summer - but it’s possible that Conor McGregor 22-4, 19 KOs, 1 SUB talks his way into a fight with either.
Justin Gaethje is a wanted man. Not only did he end Tony Ferguson’s 12-fight winning streak, The Highlight was thoroughly dominant against one of the best lightweights in the world. That win gave him the interim lightweight belt (which he threw on the ground in disdain) and the right to a unification bout with undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
But Gaethje also caught the attention of MMA’s biggest superstar. Conor McGregor has been gunning for a rematch at Nurmagomedov and clearly recognizes the situation here. For the first time in a long time, the Irishman finds himself in a situation where he’ll have to wait. That’s not something he’s used to, and he sent a few tweets targeting Gaethje for a bout.
The irony here is that a few months ago it was Gaethje trying to bait McGregor into a fight. After the Ferguson win, a giddy Gaethje has the ultimate luxury of saying “I get to pick between Conor and Khabib right now... Timing is everything. To have Conor on his knees begging for a fight, it’s a testament for the hard work and believing in my ability to show up and perform.”
You know who else has a choice (besides Brian Ortega 10 years ago)? You. The UFC odds at BookMaker.eu opened with both Gaethje vs. Nurmagomedov and Gaethje vs. McGregor odds. One is a championship bout, and the other features a superstar. In both fights, Gaethje is the underdog.
Let’s take a look at the UFC betting lines in the online sportsbook and break down how you should be betting at this point. Live UFC betting will be available on fight night as well.
Justin Gaethje +200
Khabib Nurmagomedov -250
Lightweight Contender Bout
Justin Gaethje +150
Conor McGregor -175
Let’s start with the title unifier. We think that Gaethje at 2-1 odds is an excellent value. There’s a very plausible scenario that the betting public talks themselves into the underdog and drive his price down. We’d recommend taking a bet on Gaethje now. If you’re convinced that Khabib stays undefeated, wait to see which way his line moves - we think you can get a better price closer to fight night.
Make no mistake: Gaethje is a live ‘dog. We can’t think of another lightweight with a style better equipped to hand the Russian his first loss. Gaethje’s takedown defense is elite, and his powerful striking game could test Khabib where he’s shakiest. We expect a lot of gamblers to think the same way - especially at these odds.
We’d also recommend taking a chance on Gaethje as a +150 underdog against McGregor. To be honest, this feels like a pick’em. McGregor’s power, accuracy and movement makes him a potential nightmare for Gaethje - but we also see him being unable to withstand the constant pressure. McGregor’s name is always going to hold a lot of weight with casual bettors, often accounting for extra earning opportunities when you bet against him.
A year ago, Gaethje would’ve seemed like a marked man against McGregor. But we’ve got to give credit to Gaethje for reinventing himself on the fly. He could brawl against lesser talent in WSOF and get by with ease. But back-to-back losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier inside the octagon proved his fighting style wasn’t sustainable inside the UFC. Since then, he’s found the perfect blend of patience and aggression. Going in guns blazing would be the worst possible gameplan against a sniper like McGregor.
We’ll keep you updated with any major line movements and new betting odds. It sounds like Gaethje vs. Nurmagomedov is being targeted for the summer, but there are still a ton of obstacles in the way. Also, nobody would blame Gaethje for taking a red panty night against McGregor, as that matchup could secure his family’s future. Whichever way this crumbles, we’ll have a detailed fight breakdown a few days before fight night.