Justin Gaethje: ‘I almost didn’t make it’ to UFC on ESPN+ 16 headliner vs. Donald Cerrone

VANCOUVER – Justin Gaethje admits his fight with Donald Cerrone was briefly in jeopardy.

Gaethje (20-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC), who meets Cerrone (36-12 MMA, 23-9 UFC) on Saturday in the UFC on ESPN+ 16 main event, said an eye infection nearly prevented him from making it to fight week for the anticipated matchup of lightweight contenders.

The issue seemingly caused Gaethje to arrive late to fight week. He landed in Vancouver, which hosts card from Rogers Arena that steams on ESPN+, on Wednesday and came directly to open workouts. He wore sunglasses during his scrum with reporters, and admitted that while he’s still taking “precautionary” measures, his status in the bout is not in doubt.

“I’m wearing these sunglasses because I almost didn’t make it to this fight,” Gaethje told MMA Junkie. “I had an eye infection and I’m through that now and I just got off the plane about an hour-and-a-half ago and I came straight here because I was not going to miss this opportunity to work out and get the blood flowing and get my mind into fight week.

“These lights are super bright, a little light sensitive right now but I’m 100 percent ready to go. I fought blind my whole life, so unless my eyes are cut out, I’m fighting.”

Gaethje said the situation is “seeing drastic improvements every day,” and claimed he’s already been medical cleared to step in the octagon with “Cowboy” on Saturday.

There’s potentially Gaethje vs. Cerrone could be a title eliminator at 155 pounds, but for now “The Highlight” is focused on the task at hand. And after hearing some of Cerrone’s pre-fight talk, he intends to deliver another knockout.

“He’s the second man to call me Homer Simpson and he’s the second man who is going to go to sleep for it,” Gaethje said.