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Justin Gaethje nixes Anthony Pettis, hopes for rematch with Dustin Poirier

PHILADELPHIA – A systematic breakdown of Edson Barboza is Justin Gaethje’s immediate goal.

Usually, wins put you opposite winners in the UFC. And if Gaethje beats Barboza at Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 2 event in Philadelphia, that should get him a big fight. But Gaethje’s hope is to get a rematch.

So strong is Gaethje’s desire to get another crack at Dustin Poirier, he dismisses a bout with the suddenly surging Anthony Pettis.

“As much as I respect Pettis, I won’t be looking for that fight after I win here,” he told MMA Junkie at a media day prior to Saturday’s event at Wells Fargo Center. “I want that fight back (with Poirier). I have to have that fight back.”

Poirier stopped Gaethje with strikes this past April to further solidify his status as a top lightweight contender. He’s now set for an interim lightweight title bout at next month’s UFC 236 against featherweight kingpin Max Holloway.

Gaethje snapped a two-fight skid this past August with a first-round KO of James Vick, and now he wants to get back in the title picture. He acknowledges Tony Ferguson deserves the next shot. But with the ex-interim champ dealing with personal issues, he hopes Poirier will beat Holloway, and then he can face the winner when Poirier faces undisputed champ Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“Ultimately, I would like to see (Poirier) win and get the title, and then fight him,” Gaethje said.

One option that’s not on the table, Gaethje said, is rival Al Iaquinta, who bowed out of the fight Vick wound up taking.

“Al’s a (expletive), so I’m done with him,” Gaethje said. “He’s a (expletive), man. I’ve tried to fight him so many times. He’s signed up and backed out, and I’ll put no more effort into him until he’s the only shot to my title.”

Gaethje doesn’t blame Iaquinta for not taking the fight. When Gaethje looks at the damage he’s laid on others in the octagon, it’s hard to imagine he’s a desirable option to anyone.

“I think he’s smart,” he said. “It’s not a fight you necessarily want. You have to go through hell to beat me. I got Poirier’s quad ripped. I’ve tore plenty of people’s MCLs, ACLs with my kicks. Those are not things you want to go through, especially when you get a win.”

To hear more from Gaethje, check out the video above.

For more on UFC on ESPN 2, visit the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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