Islam Makhachev has been toiling in the shadow of his friend and teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov since arriving in the UFC. On Saturday at UFC 280, he’ll have a chance to establish his own championship reign with a win over Charles Oliveira.
There’s clearly no rivalry between Islam and Khabib. The Two have known each other since childhood, and have trained under Khabib’s father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov for many years. Khabib recently said Islam Makhachev was one of his father’s top students, which is high praise indeed given the quality of fighters that have come through Abdulmanap’s gym.
However, Islam Makhachev clearly wants to do things slightly different as UFC lightweight champion. When asked during a UFC 280 media event if he planned on defending his title more than Khabib, Islam laid out his future plans.
“I want to do more title defense,” he said. “And jump to the other division.”
Khabib defended his UFC lightweight title three times before retiring following the death of his father. Since then he’s made it clear that Islam Makhachev is his chosen successor, the man who will take the belt and run with it far longer than he did. If Makhachev manages to beat the seemingly unstoppable Charles Oliveira at UFC 280, we’ll get to see how long he can hold the belt. And eventually, how he’ll do at welterweight.
In the same interview, Makhachev was asked if he was worried about taking Oliveira down given the strength of the Brazilian’s defensive submission abilities.
He shook his head and said “This is my goal: finish him in the ground because I have to show all people my grappling level.”
Immediately after he was asked about Oliveira’s power.
“This is MMA fight, we’re gonna beginning from the stand up, and I’m gonna check his skills there, you know?” Makhachev said. “All my opponents, they’re good. Like for example, Drew Dober or all these guys. If I’m gonna stand with them, they can make me some trouble, you know? But I just have to do what I do, close the distance, hold them, take them down.”
As for the third fighter orbiting their match, Islam Makhachev had some thoughts on featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.
“I meet Volkanovski in the downstairs, he’s short guy,” Makhachev said with a smile. “I ask him why he needs to cut weight right now. But if I beat Volkanovski, people gonna say, people always talk something. I want to fight Charles, and I hope he’s gonna make weight. But doesn’t matter, you know, because this camp I train so hard it doesn’t matter who’s gonna be there.”
He did confirm that he’d be willing to fight Volkanovski next, and before Ramadan starts in March.
“It’s gonna be a good fight,” Islam said. “It’s always when a champion from another division fight the other champion, it’s big fight and very interesting fight for all the fans. Why not [fight in Australia], yes? I went to Australia one time, I can do it again.”
What do you think of Islam Makhachev’s plan to cement his place at 155 and then move up a weight class? Will earning more title defenses than Khabib Nurmagomedov finally establish him as a better fighter than ‘The Eagle’? Let us know in the comments, PENN Nation!