UFC lightweight contender Justin Gaethje is coming off a submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 back in summer 2020. Similarly, Michael Chandler was finished by Charles Oliveira when they went to war at UFC 262 last May.
That’s why the 20-1 Islam Makhachev, fresh off his submission win over Dan Hooker at UFC 267 last weekend in Abu Dhabi — his ninth consecutive victory — wants to be first in line for the lightweight title, a sentiment supported by this outspoken veteran.
“Justin Gaethje or Michael Chandler, everybody is tired about these guys because they’re old, they already fought for the title,” Makhachev, 30, told UFC Arabia (transcribed by Farah Hannoun). “I told [Dana White] I want to wake up this division. We have to work and he said ‘Let me go back, and I’m gonna tell you.’”
Gaethje turns 33 next month, two years younger than Chandler, 35, though both combatants still hold elevated spots in the Top 5 of the 155-pound division.
The promotion will have to decide whether the winner of Gaethje vs. Chandler, booked for UFC 268 this weekend in New York, is more deserving than Makhachev. In addition, we won’t know who holds the 155-pound strap until Charles Oliveira defends against Dustin Poirier this December in “Sin City.”