Islam Makhachev has called for a lightweight title bout with Charles Oliveira in Abu Dhabi later this year after the Brazilian defeated Justin Gaethje in spectacular fashion at UFC 274 early on Sunday.
Oliveira, who was stripped of the belt having missed weight on Friday, rebounded with a scintillating win in the headline event at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona, triumphing by first-round submission. The victory, coming after both fighters had been knocked down during a frantic opening three minutes, extended Oliveira’s win streak to 11.
Having missed the 155lb weight limit by half a pound, Oliveira had to vacate the title, although the UFC said he would be immediately installed as the No 1-ranked contender should he deliver a victory on Sunday.
Following Oliveira’s win, No 3-ranked challenger Makhachev made his feelings clear on what he wanted to happen next, tweeting: “Congrats Charles and see you in Abu Dhabi for the vacant [title].”
The world’s lead mixed martial arts promotion is booked to return to the capital on October 22 with UFC 281 at Etihad Arena. The card had yet to be confirmed.
Khabib Nurmagomedov, the former lightweight champion who retired undefeated and now coaches Makhachev, also called for his long-time teammate to take on Oliveira.
Having already tweeted in his native Russian, Nurmagomedov then posted in English directly to UFC president Dana White, saying: “You have no other choice but make Oliveira vs Islam fight in Abu Dhabi 22 October. Perfect date, perfect location. Perfect opponents with perfect winning streaks 10 vs 11.”
At the post-event press conference, UFC president Dana White was asked if he wanted to make the cancelled bout between Makhachev and Beneil Dariush next. That fight, which pits against one another the No 3- and No 4-ranked challengers at lightweight, was postponed in February following an injury to Dariush.
“I do,” White said. “But [commentator] Joe Rogan just grabbed me in the hallway and told me not to.”
White did say, however, that the winner of the potential Makhachev-Dariush encounter would determine the No 1-contender spot. When pressed again later on that match-up, White said: “When I get up here after a fight like tonight I’m not even thinking of that stuff. I don’t know tonight.
"But I’ll give you this, I’ll be honest with you: I get it. Listen, who doesn’t want to see Dariush and Islam? It’s a great fight, it’s a killer fight. I would love to see that fight to see who the No 1 contender is.
“But I’m not going to lie: after tonight, I wouldn’t mind doing Islam versus Oliveira either. We’ll see what happens. We’ll get in the [UFC matchmaker meeting] and argue about it and figure it out.”
Makhachev, who in February defeated Dariush replacement Bobby Green by first-round TKO in Las Vegas, had told The National in the build-up to that fight: “I’m going to tell the UFC and Dana and everybody that, ‘Hey, this is my 10-fight win streak. I deserve the title fight’. I’m going to be in Abu Dhabi, waiting for the champion there.”
Speaking afterwards, the Dagestani reiterated: “I want to fight in Abu Dhabi. Because I have many of my friends, my friends who stay outside because they cannot come to the [UFC] Apex [in Las Vegas]. I want to fight for the title in Abu Dhabi when all my fans can come and support me inside.”
Makhachev, 30, has competed in the emirate twice previously, sealing victory against Davi Ramos by unanimous decision at UFC 242 in September 2019 before defeating Dan Hooker by first-round submission at UFC 267 last October. His solitary loss in 23 professional MMA bouts was almost seven years ago.
Oliveira, though, appears to have other plans to taking on Makhachev next, with the stripped champion calling out former two-division title-holder Conor McGregor. Oliveira said also that he wants his next UFC bout to take place in Brazil.