Following Khabib Nurmagomedov's retirement last year, his friend and teammate Islam Makhachev is being touted to become the next UFC champion hailing from Dagestan, Russia. Makhachev's talent is undeniable, and with Nurmagomedov now out of the way, his ascent to the lightweight throne will kick into a new gear.
Islam Makhachev has a stellar record in MMA and has lost just one fight in his entire career. He honed his skills under the tutelage of Khabib's late father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov and is currently hailed as one of the best grapplers in UFC. Abdulmanap always believed that Makhachev would be the successor to Khabib's throne.
According to Abdulmanap, Islam Makhachev's hunger surpassed that of Khabib's and he would one day replace Khabib as the lightweight champion.
"I think Islam can beat anyone. He's younger, hungrier, and he should take Khabib's place. That way I solidify my coaching abilities. So Khabib retires and another champion emerges who's also my student."
3 UFC fighters who believe Islam Makhachev will become the next lightweight champion
It's not just Abdulmanap, there are several other stalwarts in the world of MMA who believe in the abilities of Islam Makhachev. In this article, we look at UFC fighters who believe Makhachev will become the new king of the UFC lightweight division.
#3 Daniel Cormier
Former two-division champion Daniel Cormier has been a vocal supporter of Islam Makhachev for a long time now. Cormier refers to his AKA teammate as 'champion' and has stated that Islam is set to become the lightweight champ on numerous occasions in the past.
"You're now the champion of the world. You're the next champ. You're the best. You've always been the best," said Cormier to Makhachev.
Cormier even stated that the top-ranked UFC lightweights are intentionally avoiding Makhachev because they know he's going to 'smash all of them'. DC compared Islam Makhachev to the undisputed welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
"Nobody will fight him. Islam [Makhachev] is just gonna smash 'em all. He'll beat 'em all. I know for a fact, [the fight] was offered to [Paul] Felder, it was offered to RDA, it was offered to a number of guys in that top 10, and these guys won't fight him. I don't know what more he can do but just to compete, make money, and keep working his way toward the championship. It's very reminiscent of when Kamaru Usman was coming up"
#2 Javier Mendez
AKA head coach Javier Mendez believes Islam Makhachev is an evolved version of Khabib Nurmagomedov and will rule the 155-pound division in the years to come. In an interview with Niall McGrath, Javier Mendez claimed that Makhachev's game is better rounded than Khabib's.
"His (Islam Makhachev's) overall game is slightly better than Khabib's - the stand-up, the kicking, and the ground. Remember, Islam is a two-time Sambo champion, and not just recently, too. He's accomplished what Khabib has accomplished. Islam has adapted to the striking quicker than Khabib, being that Khabib will only train striking when he's with me. And Khabib didn't even like to kick very much very end of the last two camps. [That's when] he started getting up the kick."
Javier Mendez has coached UFC legends like Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier and Khabib Nurmagomedov over the years. If he's investing so much faith in Islam Makhachev, there must be some substance behind the Russian fighter.
#1 Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib Nurmagomedov has always maintained that Islam Makhachev is one of the very best fighters in the lightweight division. According to Khabib, his friend and teammate has the potential to become the new king of the lightweight division.
After Makhachev's unanimous decision over Davi Ramos at UFC 242 in 2019, Nurmagomedov left his title beside Makhachev and called him a 'Future champion'.
In an interview with ESPN, Nurmagomedov said that by the end of 2021, Islam Makhachev will be the biggest name in the lightweight division, ahead of the likes of Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.
"Now, everybody talks about Dustin, Conor, Chandler, Justin, Oliveira. But by the end of the year, it's gonna be changed. I don't think anyone can beat [Makhachev] right now. He will run [the division]."
Islam Makhachev is currently on a seven-fight winning streak in the UFC. He is scheduled to take on Thiago Moises on July 17 at UFC on ESPN 26. Makhachev could earn himself a fight against one of the top five contenders in the lightweight division with an impressive victory.