Justin Gaethje is ready to become the face of the WSOF lightweight division. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
A fighter’s opponent usually does not change three times ahead of a championship bout, but that has nevertheless been Justin Gaethje’s fate heading into WSOF 8.
The Grudge Training Center rep was initially expected to face Gesias Cavalcante and then Lewis Gonzalez, but both competitors were forced to withdraw from the event due to injury. Instead, Gaethje will now face Richard Patishnock for the inaugural World Series of Fighting lightweight title in Saturday night’s main event from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.
“I’ll fight anyone for a world title. I’m really excited for a new challenge,” Gaethje said during a recent media conference call. “I want to thank the World Series of Fighting for selecting me to be the face of their lightweight division. That's a big thing that they are entrusting me with, and I'm excited about that.”
The 25-year-old owns a perfect 10-0 professional record, with nine of those victories coming inside the distance. If the Arizona native has his way, fans can expect more of the same in Saturday’s main event on NBC Sports Network.
“I used to just wrestle, and I realized there is a very big difference between wrestling and fighting. I was too aggressive in wrestling, and that got me in trouble sometimes. Now, being too aggressive may get me in trouble, but if I do fail, it’s going to be because I am going 120 miles per hour,” said Gaethje. “My style has always been to move forward and push the pace, so that’s what I’m going to continue to do. I’m going to make my opponent really push back and have to stop me from implementing my game plan.”
Gaethje has been given just three weeks to prepare for his new opponent, but the southpaw nevertheless appears confident that both men will put on an entertaining show.
"Rich throws a lot of punches and has a great takedown defense. This is a great matchup skill-wise for both of us,” said Gaethje. “It's going to be an exciting fight, and [that is] what I really try to do. That's all I can really control."
Should all go to plan, Saturday’s event will close with WSOF President Ray Sefo wrapping a gold belt around Gaethje’s waist. However, the lightweight has no plans on taking his foot off the gas pedal in the event of a win. Rather, Gaethje relishes the opportunity to take on all comers from the top of the mountain.
“I feel like I have fought the top contenders and have established myself at the top of the division,” said Gaethje. “I want the target on my back and all the top guys in the world shooting for me. That’s what I need.”