Grudge Training Center in Wheat Ridge, Colo., is known for turning high-level prospects into champions. Their latest project? Former NCAA Division I wrestler Justin Gaethje. The lightweight has parlayed a strong amateur career into three straight wins as a professional.

Now, Gaethje will battle Marcus Edwards for the Ring of Fire Young Gun belt at Ring on Fire 43 on June 2 in Broomfield, Colo. The fighter credits his team for helping him prepare.

“Everyone is in there to get better and try to be the world champion,” Gaethje told The MMA Corner. “We’re a big family; trying to make each other better.”

Gaethje stops a takedown with a guillotine attempt (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

It’s not just training at Grudge that Gaethje sees as the key to his success. His time on the wrestling mat has been invaluable thus far.

“College wrestling will build a lot of character in you,” the former University of Northern Colorado Bear explained. “There are a lot of spots where guys quit. I’ve been there more than once and I just pushed through.”

Elaborating even further, Gaethje added, “I think (wrestling) gives you a lot of options. Being pushed my breaking point so many times has really helped me in MMA. Division I wrestling is a different caliber league. Every match went down to the last minute, last second.”

The hard work that Gaethje has put in both of the mat and in the gym has led him to finish all but one fight in his career, something he prides himself on.

“I love finishing fights,” the lightweight declared. “I wish I could have that fight again so I could finish that one. Every time I go out there, I try to knock people out. The faster I finish, the less tired I have to get (laughing).”

As Gaethje prepares to face the dynamic Edwards, he’s just thankful that the fight is happening.

“This fight has been pushed back like four times and I’ve been waiting three years to fight him,” explained Gaethje. “At this point, I’ll fight him for free.”

The strong feelings toward his opponent don’t end at having to wait to fight him, however.

“I don’t feel that his skills are as advanced as any lightweight in my gym,” Gaethje said. “I think there are different levels of fighting and he’s not there yet.”

Despite expressing the opinion that Edwards is beneath him, Gaethje does believe there is good that will come from a victory when the two do battle on June 2.

Gaethje (top) controls his opponent (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

“It’s just one more step closer to the big leagues,” said the fighter. “I don’t think Edwards is at the next level, but a lot of people think he’s that caliber of fighter. That helps me a lot when I go out there and destroy him.”

Knocking his opponents out has become a common thing for Gaethje, but after scoring multiple finishes by way of slam, Gaethje is chomping at the bit for something else.

“I want to knock him out from my feet; I need one of those standing knockouts. But I’ll take a slam on his head, that always works,” he quipped with a laugh.

Brimming with confidence leading up the bout, Gaethje has a prediction for what happens in the cage.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting fight,” Gaethje declared. “I think he’ll try to clinch with me and I’ll be able to hit some hip tosses and then eventually knock him out.”

Justin would like to thank Grudge Training Center, Trevor Wittman, Leister Bowling, and Dagger 8 Armory. Follow him on Twitter: @GAETHJE_FSU

Top Photo: Justin Gaethje (Ring of Fire)

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  • Michael Edwards

    How have you been waiting three years to fight him and he has only been fighting for 2 and a half years. Also he was going to fight you last year and you back out saying I am going to take a pro fight instead of fighting Marcus. As I remember it you didn’t want your pro debut to be against Marcus. But you can write them checks all day cashing them is a whole different story!!!!