UFC

UFC Fighter Justin Gaethje Was Destined to Be a Copper Miner: ‘It’s Grueling Work

Like many fighters, Justin Gaethje had a choice between fighting or getting a regular, full-time job. Many fighters have experience working dirty jobs before they made it big, and Gaethje was no exception. Let’s look at how Justin Gaethje was destined to work in a copper mine before he made it big in the UFC.

Justin Gaethje comes from a family of copper miners

Gaethje was born in Safford, Arizona, and it’s a small town that’s not that far from the Morenci Mine, which is one of the largest copper mines in America. As a result, like ESPN said, the mine supported Gaethje’s family as well as many other families in his small town and the other neighboring towns. This was a generational thing, too.

According to ESPN, Gaethje’s father worked in the mines, his mother briefly worked there as well, and his uncle and his grandfathers also worked at the mines. Not only that, but Gaethje has a twin brother named Marcus, and rather than fighting, Marcus has worked at the mines for a long time. Unsurprisingly, Gaethje himself also had a brief stint in the mines, but it wasn’t for him. 

“I worked seven days a week, 12 hours every day. I did it for three months straight and took one sick day, because I had to sleep,” Gaethje said. The job paid well, as his twin brother was able to buy his own house in his early 20s, but the work was tough. “It’s grueling work,” Gaethje said, according to MMA Fighting

He took the job before he went to college, but a few of his coworkers thought that he’d end up going back to the mines. In response, Gaethje said to his friends, “Absolutely not. That’s not gonna happen. If I come back, it’s because it will be my choice. I’m not gonna have to come back here because I failed.” 

Gaethje chose another dirty job

Justin Gaethje reacts after a KO
Justin Gaethje after knocking out Edson Barboza | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

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As the Greeley Tribune reported, the mines were tough, and they’ve done some physical damage to Gaethje’s family. Gaethje said his dad lost his hearing due to working at the mines. He knew if he didn’t choose to go to college and wrestle, he’d be a copper miner like everyone else. 

Wrestling and fighting is a dangerous job too, however. As Gaethje said, he’s suffered a concussion from wrestling before. Obviously, he’s taken a lot of damage from his pro fights. This is mostly because of his fighting style. He tries to make every fight exciting by punching hard.

However, due to financial reasons, Gaethje decided to fight smarter. He said, according to ESPN, “Two of those times, because I lost, I only got paid half my money, because that’s how it works in this sport. That wasn’t cool with me.”

Justin Gaethje’s UFC career so far

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Those two fights that Gaethje discussed were against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier. In each fight, Gaethje got knocked out. After those losses, he decided to change how he fought so that he could maximize his chances of winning. He started taking fewer risks, according to ESPN, and it’s worked out really well for him. 

Currently, he’s on a four-fight win streak, and he’s set to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title. Not only that, but this fight is guaranteed to make him a lot more money than he’d make if he worked the mines like his family does.

At the end of the day however, Gaethje wants to inspire people to broaden their horizons, according to ESPN. He said, “I really want to inspire youth to go and check out the world.”