Islam Makhachev rules out two potential opponents, reveals likeliest next matchup

UFC 220: Makhachev v Tibau
UFC 220: Makhachev v Tibau
Modified 23 Mar 2021

Islam Makhachev has excluded the chance of fighting Paul Felder and Dan Hooker. The Russian believes the UFC is inclined to line him up against Rafael dos Anjos.

Coached by former lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Islam Makhachev has already suggested he would also be open to facing the Brazilian for his next fight and offered to fight Dos Anjos in July. 'RDA' later agreed to fight, but only if Khabib returned to rematch him if he beat Makhachev.

Speaking to RT Sport in a recent interview, Islam Makhachev explained how he sees his current scenario in the UFC unfolding next.

"We know that [Paul] Felder doesn't want to fight often. He has other things going on with the UFC, and he isn't eager to fight anymore. As far as [D. He'soker, I saw that he recently came home. He was in quarantine for a long time. So, I don't think he'll want to come back soon. He'll probably want to rest after getting knocked out. So, I think they'll give me [Rafael] dos Anjos." (translation via RT Sport).

Islam Makhachev also explained why he has changed his behavior and decided to play the "media game," calling out opponents in interviews and social media way more often than earlier in his career.

"These days you have to do that. When Khabib [Nurmagomedov] used to make loud statements, people reacted differently, but not everyone understands that if you keep quiet and beat everyone, nobody will be interested in you. You'll slip up once, and [the UFC] will end your contract."

The Russian's last performance inside the Octagon was a dominant victory against Drew Dober at UFC 259, which catapulted him to No. 11 in the lightweight rankings.

Islam Makhachev would like to fight Justin Gaethje

UFC 242 Makhachev v Ramos
UFC 242 Makhachev v Ramos

Most people expected Justin Gaethje to fight Michael Chandler next. However, following Khabib Nurmagomedov's definitive retirement, the UFC decided to make the fight for the vacant title happen as soon as possible.

As Gaethje just lost his title fight with Khabib, the promotion opted to book Charles Oliveira to compete for the 155 lb gold against Chandler instead. The swap made Gaethje a free top contender, which sparked interest among fighters lower in the list, including Islam Makhachev.

Asked if a fight against Gaethje, who shares the same manager as Islam Makhachev, was on the cards, the Russian did not dismiss the possibility.

"Yes, it's possible. Justin [Gaethje] and I know each other, but it's not like we're friends. It's possible, he's free right now. Why not? I'd love to fight him."
Published 23 Mar 2021
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