American mixed martial arts fighter

Justin Ray Gaethje[5] (/ˈɡeɪdʒi/; born November 14, 1988) is an American professional mixed martial artist, who fights in the lightweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). As of January 20, 2020, he is #4 in the UFC lightweight rankings.[6]

Born in Safford, Arizona, Gaethje began wrestling when he was four years old. He was a two-time Arizona state champion as a wrestler at Safford High School, and an NCAA Division I All-American during his time at the University of Northern Colorado. He began his amateur MMA career while in college, turned professional in 2011 and joined the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) in 2013, where he became Lightweight Champion. He defended his WSOF belt five times before vacating it to join the UFC in 2017.

Despite his wrestling background, Gaethje rarely looks for takedowns and is known for his aggressive stand-up fighting style. He has won 18 of his 21 wins by knockout or technical knockout and has received four Fight of the Night and three Performance of the Night awards in his six fights in the UFC.


Early life[edit]

Justin Ray Gaethje was born on November 14, 1988, in Safford, Arizona. In high school he wrestled, played football and tried baseball.[7] His mother, Carolina (née Espinoza), is of Mexican descent, and his father, John Ray Gaethje, is of German descent.[8][9] His mother was a postmaster while his father was a copper miner, as were both of his grandfathers. His paternal grandfather boxed while serving in the United States Army.[10] He has a twin brother, Marcus John Gaethje, who has worked at the Morenci Mine since he was 18.[9] Outside of MMA, Gaethje once spent a summer working at the Morenci Mine.[11]

Wrestling career[edit]

High school[edit]

Gaethje began wrestling at the age of four,[12] and attended Safford High School,[13] where he was a four-time finalist and two-time Arizona state champion as a wrestler.[14]


Gaethje wrestled for the University of Northern Colorado. As a junior, he placed 7th in the 2010 NCAA Division I 157 lb Championship and became the first (and only, as of 2017) Northern Colorado athlete to attain All-American status since the school joined Division I in 2006.[11][15] He dropped down to the 149 lb division for his senior year, but had struggles with weight cutting.[16] Gaethje also wrestled with a number of mixed martial artists such as Georges St-Pierre during his collegiate years.[17]

Mixed martial arts career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Gaethje began his amateur MMA career during his studies at the University of Northern Colorado. He amassed a 7–0 amateur record before making his professional debut on August 20, 2011, against Kevin Croom. Gaethje won the fight in the first round via KO due to a slam after his opponent attempted a submission.[18]

World Series of Fighting[edit]

Gaethje was signed by the World Series of Fighting on January 22, 2013, and made his debut at WSOF 2 against Gesias Cavalcante, finishing the fight in the first round through TKO (doctor stoppage) after opening a cut above Cavalcante’s left eye.[19]

At WSOF 3 he fought Brian Cobb, eventually winning via TKO from leg kicks in the third round.[20]

Afterwards, he fought Dan Lauzon at WSOF 6, finishing Lauzon with a right uppercut in the second round.[21]

Gaethje headlined WSOF 8 against Richard Patishnock and became the inaugural WSOF Lightweight Champion after dispatching Patishnock in the first round via TKO.[22]

His first title defense was at WSOF 11 against Nick Newell.[23] Gaethje won the fight with a right hook TKO in the second round.[24]

On November 15, 2014, Gaethje faced UFC veteran and former training partner Melvin Guillard at WSOF 15.[25] The fight was ruled a non-title contest after Guillard missed weight. Gaethje won the bout via split decision (28–29, 29–28, and 30–27).[26]

He then went on to fight Luis Palomino at WSOF 19, Gaethje beat Palomino via TKO in the third round.[27] The LA Times named this fight as the best fight of 2015.[28]

He had a rematch against Luis Palomino at WSOF 23 and defended his belt, finishing Palomino in the second round.[29]

At WSOF 29, he defended his belt again by defeating Brian Foster via TKO at 1:43 of the first round.[30][31][32]

On March 15, 2016, Gaethje was suspended indefinitely by the Colorado State Athletic Commission for “unsportsmanlike conduct” after he backflipped off the top of the cage in his post-fight celebration at WSOF 29.[33] The suspension was lifted a day later.[34][35]

Gaethje was expected to defend the WSOF Lightweight Championship against Ozzy Dugulubgov at WSOF 33 on October 7, 2016.[36] However, the bout was cancelled on the day of the event as Dugulubgov was stricken with illness.[37]

On October 17, 2016, it was announced that Gaethje would defend the WSOF Lightweight Championship against João Zeferino on December 31, 2016, at WSOF 34 in the main event.[38] However, an injury forced Zeferino to withdraw from the bout and he was replaced by Luiz Firmino.[39] Gaethje won the bout by TKO via doctor stoppage due to Firmino’s right eye being swollen after round three.[40]

Ultimate Fighting Championship[edit]

On May 4, 2017, Gaethje announced he had vacated his WSOF title and signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.[41] It was announced on May 12 that he would make his debut against Michael Johnson on July 7, at The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale.[42] Gaethje won the back-and-forth fight via TKO in the second round through a combination of punches and knees.[43] The win earned Gaethje the Fight of the Night.[44] Sherdog named this fight as the best fight of 2017,[45] and round 2 of the fight as the best round of the year.[46]

On July 13, 2017, the UFC announced that Gaethje would coach The Ultimate Fighter 26 along with Eddie Alvarez, with the duo expected to face each other at the conclusion of the season.[47] The bout with Alvarez took place on December 2, 2017, at UFC 218.[48] Gaethje lost the fight by TKO in the third round, the first loss of his MMA career.[49] The fight also earned him his second consecutive Fight of the Night bonus award.[50]

Gaethje lost via TKO to Dustin Poirier on April 14, 2018, at UFC on Fox 29.[51] The fight earned Gaethje’s third consecutive Fight of the Night bonus award.[52]

Gaethje was scheduled to fight Al Iaquinta on August 25, 2018, at UFC Fight Night 135.[53] However, on June 28, 2018, Iaquinta withdrew from the bout and he was replaced by James Vick.[54] Gaethje won the fight by knockout in the first round.[55] He was also awarded a Performance of Night award, which was the fifth consecutive bonus award in his fourth fight in UFC.[56]

Gaethje faced Edson Barboza on March 30, 2019, at UFC on ESPN 2.[57] He won the fight via knockout in the first round.[58] This fight earned him the Fight of the Night award.[59]

Gaethje next faced Donald Cerrone on September 14, 2019 in the main event at UFC on ESPN+ 16.[60] He won the fight via TKO in the first round.[61] The win also earned Gaethje his third Performance of the Night bonus award.[62]

On April 6, it was announced that Gaethje would step in on short notice to face Tony Ferguson for the interim UFC Lightweight Championship on April 18, at UFC 249.[63] However, on April 9, Dana White announced that this event was postponed to a future date[64]

Personal life[edit]

Gaethje holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Services from the University of Northern Colorado. He has stated his intention to do social work with at-risk youth[11] Gaethje’s surname is of German descent due to his German father.[65]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Collegiate wrestling[edit]

Mixed martial arts[edit]

Mixed martial arts record[edit]

NCAA Record[edit]

See also[edit]


  • ^ “Justin Gaethje – Official UFC® Profile”. Retrieved cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  • ^ “Former WSOF champ Justin Gaethje takes shots at ‘quitter’ Conor McGregor ahead of UFC debut”. June 30, 2017.
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  • ^ Jeff Cain (January 3, 2019). “2018 Fight of the Year: Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje”.
  • ^ Kyle Symes (January 22, 2019). “With their amazing war, Poirier and Gaethje combine to earn the 2018 Combat Press Fight of the Year honor”.
  • ^ DNA, MMA. “MMA DNA UFC Awards 2017 : De Uitslagen!!!”. Retrieved 2019-01-28.
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