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Islam Makhachev expected to fight random lightweight at UFC 294 — ‘People are gonna be very disappointed’

UFC 284: Makhachev v Volkanovski Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev is expected to make his next 155-pound title defense as part of the UFC 294 pay-per-view (PPV) event on Sat., Oct. 21, 2023 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The leading candidate was thought to be former champion Charles Oliveira, but “Do Bronx” will not be ready to compete until November or December.

Next up would be the winner of Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje, who collide atop the UFC 291 PPV card later this month. But former heavyweight champion and current color commentator, Daniel Cormier, believes the damage incurred in that five-round brawl will sideline the victor for the foreseeable future, leaving matchmakers with little-to-no options.

“I think Islam Makhachev will next fight against someone that is not even necessarily on our radar,” Cormier said on his DC & RC show (transcribed by MMA News). “It’s supposed to be the winner of Gaethje versus Poirier, but I do not believe that those guys will come out of that fight clean and be healthy enough to put a title fight right that soon. I also know that Charles Oliveira has already told the UFC he’s not fighting in October.”

Makhachev recently called for a “champ champ” fight against welterweight titleholder Leon Edwards, but promotion president Dana White told TNT Sports he’s hoping to get “Rocky” in the UFC 295 lineup for Madison Square Garden in New York. That leaves Makhachev with a random Top 10 opponent (see the rankings here) that may have fans feeling disappointed.

“We’re gonna have to go down the lightweight rankings and find some other guy, and people are gonna be very disappointed,” Cormier continued. “,” CormIt’ll be the number four, five, or six-ranked guy that’s gonna get a title shot because there just will be no one else. I don’t know who he’s gonna fight, but someone’s about to get a blessing. He will not fight Leon Edwards. I don’t think the UFC is gonna allow him to be in two title superfights without having to defend the championship (against a lightweight contender).”

Goodbye Conor ... hello Islam?

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