It only seems natural that among the principal lessons for any combat sports athlete would be how to overcome fear in the moment. To that end, fighters often speak about working with sports psychologists, about overcoming pre-fight jitters, and even – in rare cases like Nick Diaz and Rampage Jackson – how little they actually enjoy the act of fighting. These do not seem to be issues, however, that Justin Gaethje appears to be grappling with.
The notable UFC action-fighter and top ranked lightweight is coming off back-to-back KO losses – the first two losses of his MMA career. And in the wake of those defeats, he’s found himself working on adjusting his attitude inside the cage. But, he’s not looking to calm down, or control his nerves. Instead, in an interview with FloCombat, the Genesis Training Center fight team member admitted that he’s been trying to add fear to his game. Justin Gaethje is learning to be scared.
“Really, what I’ve been focused on is not becoming too complacent and not having too much fun out there,” Gaethje told FloCombat. “Right before that knee [against Alvarez], I landed some huge uppercuts and I got too relaxed. In my mind, he was going away and you cannot do that at this level, especially against guys like Eddie Alvarez. Same thing happened with Dustin [Poirier]. I should have learned my lesson, but I get in there and I get too comfortable.
”I need to go in there and I need to be scared at all times. I need to understand that it can happen with one shot and that one shot can happen at any time, especially when I’m fighting guys in the top 10 of the UFC. So just staying focused, staying vigilant in my positions has really been my focus in this camp.”
Otherwise, Gaethje admitted that he’s not all that interested in changing the way he approaches fighting. He’s not going to come out looking to play it safe, or do less damage, but, “It needs to be a job to me. It can’t be a complete pleasure for me. I’ve got to go in there and I’ve got to make it a job.”
The next opportunity to showcase his new approach to mixed martial arts is coming up right around the corner. The ‘Highlight’ faces James Vick in the main event of UFC Lincoln on August 25th at the Pinnacle Bank Arena. Vick’s made a habit in the UFC of turning small mistakes from opponents into stunning finishes, so he should prove a solid benchmark for Gaethje to show fans that he’s truly become a more composed talent. If not, he may find himself on the wrong end of another stoppage loss.