UFC Fighter Justin Gaethje Decided Entertaining Fans Was Just as Important as Winning

There are many ways a UFC fighter can fight. But few people fight like Justin Gaethje. Every time he steps into the octagon, fans know they’ll get to watch a show because Gaethje always entertains. Let’s look at how and why he decided to be an entertaining fighter rather than just a winner.

Why Justin Gaethje thinks being entertaining matters

UFC fighter Justin Gaethje
Justin Gaethje celebrates after defeating Donald Cerrone in 2019 | Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

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Gaethje has always wanted to be an entertaining fighter, and in fact, it was his goal. One of his coaches, according to ESPN, said, “His purpose was always to be the most entertaining fighter in the world. I have never had anyone else say that to me. Not one.” Gaethje ultimately had a financial reason for being entertaining. He understood that, by being entertaining, he became a draw, and he’d gain new fans that way. 

As a result of his exciting style, not only did he get new fans, but he also gave himself a better negotiating position. And with that position, he could negotiate for more money from his employers. Gaethje said, according to ESPN, “There can be guys out there who are 13-0 with 13 decisions, and they’re not [even] getting paid $5,000 to fight because nobody is watching. I’ve gotten opportunities on the biggest stages because of the way I fight.”

There’s a lot of truth to his point, too. Colby Covington is a good fighter who wins a lot, but his fights were often boring. Due to that, the UFC almost fired him, but then he created an entertaining character and that forced the UFC to keep him around. Gaethje doesn’t need to resort to theatrics for that type of attention, because he instead puts on a show whenever he fights.

More money, but more risk

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When he joined the UFC in 2017, he put on an exciting fight against Michael Johnson. ESPN said that he made a total of $300,000 that night, $100,000 to show up, $100,000 because he won, and $100,000 from two performance bonuses that he got. As a result of his entertaining fighting style, he’s earned performance bonuses in every single one of his UFC fights. 

However, in order to put on a show, he’s had to take some risks, too. Those risks ended up costing him some money, as he was knocked out by Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier. Like ESPN reported, Gaethje said, “Because I lost, I only got paid half my money, because that’s how it works in this sport. You get half to show and half to win. That wasn’t cool with me.”

Justin Gaethje is fighting smarter for the future

That’s ultimately why Gaethje has recently started fighting smarter and taking fewer risks. According to ESPN, after those two losses, his coach sat back down with him and asked him if he still wanted “to be the most exciting fighter in the world.” In response, Gaethje said, “Not really, Coach. I want to be a UFC champion.” 

This smarter version of Gaethje has been doing well, too. He’s on a four-fight knockout streak, and he has knockouts against great fighters like Donald Cerrone and Tony Ferguson, and now, he’s facing Khabib Nurmagomedov for the title. Win or lose, however, Gaethje’s already setting up a retirement plan. 

According to MMA Fighting, he graduated college with a degree in Human Services. After he retires, he wants to help at-risk youth. This is also another reason why he wanted to become an entertaining fighter. He said, according to MMA Fighting, “The more popular and famous I am, the more kids I can reach. Simple as that.”