The headliner at World Series Of Fighting 8 is to be electric as undefeated Justin Gaethje takes on Rich Patishnock. Gaethje himself is assuring fans that they will deliver, going so far as to bet his life on it. With a card already stacked from top to bottom and all match-ups likely to please even the most difficult fight enthusiasts, it’s still hard to imagine an athlete willing to risk his life for our entertainment, but that’s until you speak Justin Gaethje. Both men will square off for the inaugural WSOF lightweight title this Saturday in Hollywood, Florida, and a confident Gaethje says he can’t wait to put on a show for everyone tuned in on NBCSports.
ProMMANow spoke with Gaethje to get his prediction for the fight with Patishnock and discuss the killer instinct that has propelled the native Arizonan into the MMA spotlight.
*Questions from ProMMA’s Kinch in bold.
*Answers from Gaethje are italicized.
First off Justin, how has preparation for WSOF 8 been thus far and how excited are you to be back in action on Jan 18th?
“My camp has been really good. I’ve had a couple changes in opponents so that’s been a little different, but it’s something I got used to in my amateur career. I’ve just been sticking to the game plan and working hard everyday. Practicing with Trevor Wittman, he has me running up a lot of mountains out here in Colorado, so I’m just making sure my legs are ready for a five round fight. I’m really excited for the opportunity.”
This bout with Rich Patishnock is for the inaugural WSOF lightweight title. How gratifying is it to be fighting for a title already with just under 3 years of pro experience?
“It’s very gratifying, I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity then I’ve been given so far. I’ve really worked my whole life for this, I’ve wrestled since I was really young so it’s great. I’m not going to take it for granted, I’m going to keep working hard and stay hungry for every fight.”
What can you tell me about Rich? Give me an idea of what kind of fight you are expecting from him on Jan 18th?
“I’m expecting a high pace fight even though it’s five rounds. I’m not expecting him to pace himself or pace myself, so I’m expecting a really exciting fight. Hopefully we can stand and trade, I don’t view him as a wrestler so I don’t see him going for the takedown, so hopefully it’s a standup war. Thats what I’m hoping for and that’s what I want to give to the fans.”
Where do you feel Rich is most dangerous, and without telling me your game plan, what areas do you anticipate you will be able to dominate in this tilt?
“Well, Gonzalez had been training for a five round fight, he has great wrestling so I think that would have been a fun fight. Rich was on the same card, he was cutting down to 155, so obviously he has been working hard and is in good shape. I honestly couldn’t pick, both are great match-ups for me. Both different fights too though, I think with Gonzalez there would have been a lot of scrambles and a lot more in the clinch. That’s really the only difference between the two.”
Tell me about the quick turnaround for this fight. You were just in action in October, how eager were you to get back into the cage?
“I was ready and I came out of my last fight pretty unscathed, that’s what we’re here for, I’m young and I’m ready to fight so I want to get in as many fights as I can every year.”
You’re undefeated as both an amateur and a pro, with only one fight going to the judges. What would you credit your finish rate too? Killer instinct? Hard work? A combination of both?
“I’d say it’s definitely the killer instinct. Every time I fight, my only goal is to knock the other guy out or go for submissions. You’re never going to see me drop someone and look for the choke, I’m going to try and finish him with strikes. That’s the way I’ve always been and that’s how I’ll keep looking at it.”
What is life like training with Trevor Wittman at Grudge Training Center in Colorado?
Lets move to WSOF, everyone I have spoken too has very high praise for how the company is run and how the fighters are treated. Tell me about your experience with WSOF so far?
“The fact that Ray Sefo is a fighter has to be one of the things that we all of look at. He knows what we’re going through and he has said it a million times, he’s going to put the fighters first. I feel that, I see that, and I know that’s exactly what they are doing. It’s a really awesome company to work for right now, Ive never had the experience of working with another big company, so I really can’t compare it to anything else. But I don’t see the UFC or any promotion being as accommodating towards their fighters as the WSOF has been. Every time I fight they tell me, ‘no matter what happens out there you won’t get cut and you’re not going to lose your job.’ Those are big things that all fighters are really worried about so it’s something I’m very grateful for and I enjoy working for WSOF.”
What do you think about Ali’s challenge to Bellator? How do you feel you match up with Eddie Alvarez or Mike Chandler?
“What more could I ask for? I love when Ali did that, but I don’t see it happening, I don’t see Bellator doing it. Alvarez and Chandler are high ranked guys, so what more could I ask for if the WSOF wants to match me up with them? They must feel that’s were I belong.”
Back to WSOF 8, give me an Idea of what you have been working on in the gym that you will be looking to showcase in this fight?
“One thing I can say is that anyone who has seen me fight would know that I fight a little reckless. So that’s one thing I,ve been working on. I’m still going to be reckless but I’ve been working on my head-movement a lot. Like I said earlier, I’ve been running up tons of hills making sure my legs are ready for twenty-five minutes, if that’s what needs to happen. I’m ready to go 100 percent for twenty-five minutes, I’m not going to pace myself or back off when I get tired. I know I’m going to get tired, I’m in there to get tired. If was to lose this fight, I would be entirely disappointed if I was physically able to walk out of that cage on my own. That would piss me off more then anything. You can count on this every time I fight, I’m going to put myself on the line whenever I step into that cage.”
Assuming you defeat Rich on the 18th, have you considered who you would like to defend the belt against first? And have you ever considered testing the waters in other weight classes?
How do you see this fight going and how do you get your hand raised at the end of the night?
“I’m going to be aggressive, I’m going to push the pace and try to finish this fight as fast as possible. I’m going to do whatever I have to do. I’ve been working on a lot of kicks, a lot of knees, you guys saw a spinning elbow last time, I’m looking for every advantage possible. I’m going to put myself on the line, I’m going to take some risks and hopefully make some cool stuff happen.”
Tell all the Justin Gaethje fans out there why they should tune in to NBCSports on January 18th?
“January 18th, tune in on NBCSports because I guarantee I will knock Rich Patishnock out, or I promise I will risk my life to do so.”
Follow Justin on Twitter @Justin_Gaethje
Tune in live on NBCSports at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT to see all the action at WSOF 8 go down! Check your local listings.
For more MMA news and all things awesome, ProMMANow has got you covered!