The Day After: MMA's Most Exciting Fighter Justin Gaethje Happy to Pay the Price

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterSeptember 19, 2015

Photo Credit: Steve Bauzen/World Series of Fighting

What follows is a list of things World Series of Fighting Champion Justin Gaethje (15-0) doesn't give a damn aboutwhether or not he has a Wikipedia page, concern trolls pretending to care about his well being after a tough fight or online experts suggesting his style wouldn't wear well against the top fighters in the world. 

"I'm not worried about Wikipedia. It doesn't bother me. I'll have one soon enough, and it will say 'Most knockouts. Finishes fights. Is exciting. Fan pleaser.' I don't care about anything else," Gaethje told Bleacher Report in an exclusive interview.

"I'm just going to keep doing what I do...There's always going to be people talking s--t, especially from behind a computer. I appreciate the people who actually know what the hell they're watching and pay attention."

Things he does care about, things on his mind as adrenaline kept sleep at bay for most of the night? Hitting people hard, being exciting above all and doing flips off the cageno matter how stupid you think it is.

"They know not to try and change me," Gaethje said, admitting he knew better but just got carried away. "I had actually told myself I wasn't going to do that. But, hey, emotions run pretty high when you get in there." 

If this boyish enthusiasm doesn't make you love the 26-year-old lightweight, at least a little, you should probably stop reading here and go look for your soul. If fighting has an id, it's Gaethje, a walking calamity who doesn't seem to care all that much who gets the better end of the wild slugfests he effortlessly initiates in every fight.

"When you fight me, you aren't going to be able to be so careful. They better block their face and knock me out," Gaethje said. "I'm going to hit them, kick them. I'm going to come forward. They'll have to run, literally run, backwards. That's the only way to get away from me. And eventually you're going to run into the cage."

Checking out of his hotel the morning after his return bout with Luis Palomino, immediately in discussion for knockout of the year, Gaethje claims to be feeling good. A bump on his head, courtesy of a Palomino left hand, is the only indication he had a rough night at all, despite taking dozens of hard punches from an opponent with heavy hands. If anything hurts, he says, it's his knee, from bouncing it off his rival's ribs and head so many times.

So while he hears the incessant criticism of his wild ways in the cage, he's doing just fine, thank you very much.

"I don't feel like I'm getting hurt. I don't feel like my chin is going. He hit me one good time and rocked me. But I didn't get a concussion or anything like that. I don't think I took any brain damage that fight," Gaethje said. "...A lot of people say I'm reckless and I take too many shots. I take shots on the forehead. There's nothing wrong with that. It puts me in punching range.

"When I take a right hand, I roll with it. I don't absorb every single bit of the punch. There's different ways to alleviate some of the force of a punch besides just getting out of the way. When I take it, it's on my gloves. I don't get hit a ton on the button. When I do get hit, I feel like I'm setting myself up for big shots." 

Palomino and Gaethje exchange blows.
Palomino and Gaethje exchange blows.Photo Credit: Steve Bauzen/World Series of Fighting

The big shots were divided evenly between Gaethje and Palomino in their second fight-of-the-year-caliber bout of 2015. Palomino had the champion reeling in the first round, but Gaethje's more diverse skill set eventually turned the tide.

A former NCAA All-American at the University of Northern Colorado, Gaethje has an advantage few strikers with such heavy hands possess—the ability to bring the fight to the mat whenever the going gets too tough.

Just four years into his career, Gaethje has gained some notoriety as the best fighter in the world without his own Wikipedia page. World Series of Fighting, the online encyclopedia of record says, doesn't meet its notability criteria. While Gaethje laughs this off easily, it underscores something a little deeper—there is no path in his current promotion to reach greatness.

Earlier this year, Gaethje signed a multiyear agreement with WSOF, crushing hardcore fans' dreams of seeing him against the best in UFC or Bellator. But those fights are coming with time. And Gaethje doesn't intend to change a single thing. 

"I'm not saying I'd walk through everybody," Gaethje said. "There's some great fights for me, though, and I'd put on a hell of a show with a lot of the fighters in the top 10. My pressure is second to none, and a lot of them don't have any way to prepare for what I'm going to be bring. It will be different than anything they've ever seen."

Jonathan Snowden covers combat sports for Bleacher Report.

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