Islam Makhachev wanted to fight Kevin Lee at UFC 249 - the same card headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov. Unfortunately, it didn't work out despite the two expressing mutual interest. Instead, Kevin Lee took a fight against Charles Oliviera in the UFC Brasilia headliner - following which Makhachev slammed Lee for taking the "easy way out".
Given the nature of the fight game, one can never tell for sure how many times they're going to fight in a year. As a result, Makhachev won't be waiting around. According to Azmat Bostanov (via MMARusContext), Makhachev is set for a big step-up in competition as he is rumored to face the man that Kevin Lee last defeated - Gregor Gillespie.
Gillespie was undefeated before UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden but was knocked out cold in the opening contest of the night on the main card. It'll be a big fight for both men. Gillespie has to work his way up the division while Makhachev will be looking to break into the higher ranks as well.
Khabib Nurmagomedov has praised Makhachev on many occasions and believes he has what it takes to become the UFC Lightweight Champion. This is a great match-up to test both men and Makhachev might just be the favorite.
However, Gillespie has all the tools to be a top contender as well. This could serve as the co-headliner for UFC 249 - headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov against Tony Ferguson for the Light Heavyweight Championship.