With a 5-0 record in the UFC lightweight division and five consecutive stoppages without even reaching a third round, the Frenchman officially announced his presence as one of the top up-and-coming names at 155 pounds on the recent Madison Square Garden pay-per-view. Now Saint-Denis has a number next to his name on the UFC’s official rankings, and he sees Gaethje as the perfect foe to give him the kind of knock-down, drag-out war he craves.
“It is a fight I want to have,” Saint-Denis said of Gaethje on The MMA Hour. “It’s at the top of the list, of course. It’s not his fault, but I do believe they are going to make [Islam] Makhachev against [Charles] Oliviera. Gaethje is a warrior, he likes activity, but he will have to fight again and big dates are coming next year, and he has already been defeating Dustin Poirier, he has been defeating a lot of tough guys, and I do believe this is a fight for the BMF Benoit Saint-Denis badly wants ‘bloodbath’ fight with Justin Gaethje and he the chin to make it a war. Because you can have tough guys, but if they don’t have the chin, with me, it’s not going to make it [into a war].
“I do believe we both have a chin that we can crack a couple of times, and if people want a violent fight and fight that could be [remembered by] history, I think that’s the fight to make. I do believe we can have a fight that is going to be crazy. Crazy scrambles, crazy punching exchanges. I have a lot of respect for him, but I do believe he will have to fight before getting the title because of this Islam Makhachev and Oliveira stuff, and Islam doesn’t fight this much so he will have to wait a lot. If he wants a war, anywhere, I’m for it.”
Saint-Denis, 27, has been sensational thus far in 2023. He’s competed three times over the past five months and looked every bit the part of a future title contender in all three, submitting Ismael Bonfim with a first-round face crank, knocking out Thiago Moises in a Fight of the Night performance, and then dispatching Frevola with a brutal first-round head kick in just 91 seconds to cash another Performance of the Night bonus.
Gaethje represents a big leap up the ladder, though. The 35-year-old former UFC interim champion is one of the top contenders in the lightweight division and staked his claim as a prime candidate to challenge for the belt with his recent knockout of Dustin Poirier. Gaethje has said publicly that he expects his next fight to be for a title, but with UFC champion Islam Makhachev and former champion Charles Oliveira still potentially meeting in a rematch next year, Saint-Denis thinks his callout of Gaethje could end up having some legs.
“Why not? A lot of guys are booked already in the division,” Saint-Denis said. “There is [Mateusz] Gamrot, Dustin [Poirier], and him that are not booked, so those three guys are the targets for me.”
“I’m in the mixed martial arts because I saw this [Dan Henderson] vs. Shogun [Rua] fight, this [Rory] MacDonald against Robbie Lawler. I can see bloodbath and something like where my teeth are going to [get knocked out] during the fight [with Gaethje], just this crazy excitement. … I want a fight when I’m going to be 45 [years old], I’m watching it and I’ll be like, ‘Ah, it was good. It was a good fight.’ I want it to be tough. When you feel you are out of breath, you have blood in your mouth, your body’s tired, your spirit is a bit broken, and let’s see who is going to be broken the most and which spirit is going to let go before the other.”
“I do believe he’s interested in tough fights and in making a point in the division,” Saint-Denis added. “He will have to make a point and he has a lot of options. He’s better ranked guy, he’s a veteran, he’s a star, but I do believe it could be a fight that excites him as well.”
While his callout of Gaethje may be ambitious, Saint-Denis is confident that he’s ready for the toughest fights available at 155 pounds. With the right opportunities, the former French special forces officer believes he can be in the UFC title mix by the end of 2024.
“I’m going to try and I’m going to give my all to be a real title contender [next year], of course. It’s all I wish for,” Saint-Denis said. “My team, my [coaching] staff, my family, for all the people that are pushing me to be there, and this is what we are going to do — we are going to work as hard as we can to get there, and I do believe I earned a great fight for my next fight, and it’s going to be one more step to get that belt around my waist.”