It’s been a long road back to the Octagon for Islam Makhachev, who spent 2020 on the sidelines with three canceled bouts. Finally after 18 months away, he returned at UFC 259 to dismantle Drew Dober, earning a third round submission victory via arm-triangle choke from half guard (recap).
And it wasn’t the kind of submission you’d normally see succeed in UFC, but by then Dober was physically exhausted and mentally broken. Indeed, Makhachev didn’t bother to pass to side control and just squeezed a tap out of his opponent.
“This choke, if I try to do this choke first round, it’s very hard,” Makhachev said at the post-fight press conference. “But if opponent tired, it’s very easy. I did this choke many times in the gym, but I remember about this when I stay on top. Let’s try, maybe.”
Now that Islam is back, he’s hoping to take a big step up in competition. Two of his three canceled bouts in 2020 were against Rafael dos Anjos, and Makhachev sounds legitimately interested in getting that rebooked. But, he has another opponent in mind if he could choose anyone.
“RDA or Tony Ferguson,” he said. “But, my dream fight is Tony because we have some deal with him like couple of years. Now he still pressure Khabib. I don’t understand this guy. I want to just help him retire. He’s old. His mind is a little bit crazy. That’s why I just want to help him.”
Makhachev sees a fight with Ferguson as taking care of unfinished business for his friend and training partner, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“When Khabib take this fight versus Tony, Tony is southpaw and I am southpaw, too. So all this, what, five time, I help Khabib for this fight. So I know exactly how Tony work, I know a lot about him.
“Khabib and me have almost same technique,” he continued. “We have good wrestling, good grappling skills. So I just want to show people how Khabib take him down, control him, make him tired, make him tap. Everybody talk like Tony hard fight for Khabib but I never thought like that because Khabib’s wrestling and grappling are different. Nobody have it like that.
“Tony is number five or six, that’s why it’s going to be good for me,” he finished. “And Tony is very good fighter because he finish lot of good fighters. That’s why I just want to check my skills, and I know I can finish him.”
Sign us up!
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 259: “Blachowicz vs. Adesanya” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.