Reigning UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev is fresh off his first (but perhaps not his last) title defense against current 145-pound titleholder Alexander Volkanovski, spoiling the “champ champ” dreams of “The Great” featherweight kingpin.
That could depend on what happens between No. 4-ranked lightweight contender Beneil Dariush and former 155-pound champion Charles Oliveira, who collide on the recently-announced UFC 288 pay-per-view (PPV) card on May 6 in Newark.
“I hope Beneil wins, because I already beat Oliveira, and I need some new challenge,” Makhachev told BT Sport (transcribed by Farah Hannoun). “Dariush is going to be a good fight, because this guy has good skills – striking skills, wrestling skills, and grappling skills. That’s why it’s gonna be a good fight. Oliveira, if he wants a rematch, if he shows a good performance, maybe he’s going to be next. I don’t know.”
One of these two fighters may have something to say about that.
“I could have been UFC champion a couple of years ago,” Makhachev continued. “All fighters from Top 10, they avoid me for many years, but I have all the skills. I told everybody I can strike with anyone. Many people say Volkanovski is the best striker in the UFC, but I beat him in his game. I always like to finish my opponents, but I’m going to strike more for sure, because I can strike with anyone and fans love this.”
Makhachev (24-1) captured the crown by submitting Oliveira at UFC 280 last Oct. in Abu Dhabi and is widely-regarded as one of the division’s most punishing wrestlers, following in the footsteps of his longtime friend and mentor, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
A jump to welterweight is expected at some point in the not-too-distant future.