Islam Makhachev has reiterated his desire to fight in Abu Dhabi next for the UFC lightweight title, while also claiming he would make easier work of Conor McGregor than he did Bobby Green on Sunday morning.
The Dagestan native, the division’s No 4-ranked contender, lifted his win streak to 10 with a first-round TKO of Green in the main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The American was a late replacement for the injured Beneil Darwish.
The victory means Makhachev now boasts the same number of consecutive wins as lightweight champion Charles Oliveira. The Brazilian, 32-8 in professional MMA, is slated to defend his crown against No 1-ranked challenger Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 in May.
Asked in Sunday’s post-fight press conference whether he would serve as a back-up to that bout in case either fighter gets injured, Makhachev said: “For step-in, we have some guys like [Rafael] dos Anjos or Michael Chandler. But I deserve [the title shot] - I have 10-fight win streak. I’ve been training so hard the last 11 months.
“I’m ready for a fight next week, next pay-per-view show. 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 Apex. I want to fight for the title in Abu Dhabi when all my fans can come and support me inside.”
Makhachev, 30, had told The National last week that he envisaged contesting the title in Abu Dhabi in October or November. As of yet, there has been no confirmation as to when the UFC will return to the capital. The promotion last staged a show there in October, when Makhachev defeated Dan Hooker by first-round submission.
Khabib Nurmagomedov, the former lightweight champion and teammate of Makhachev who now acts as his coach, said on Sunday that UFC president Dana White had told him he was planning a “very big show at the end of this year” in Abu Dhabi.
On that potential match-up with Oliveira, Makhachev said: “I think it’s going to be good match because this guy’s good in the striking and grappling and wrestling. I’m going to make him tired, pressure him, and make him give up.
“Because this guy, I know when somebody goes with him three or four rounds and give him hard punches and a hard time, and he can finish some people with the choke. But when he does not do this, he gives up all the time. But I have more grappling skills than him. He going to try to finish me on the ground, but it’s going to be so hard for him.”
On Friday, former two-division champion McGregor hinted at the possibility of going straight into a title fight against Oliveira upon his return from injury. The Irishman, who has lost in his past two UFC appearances, suggested the summer for his comeback.
However, when asked about McGregor jumping in to take on Oliveira instead, or even a potential bout between himself and his team's long-standing rival, Makhachev said: "Honestly, I don't remember when this guy beat someone. He has to come back, beat someone and let’s go, why not?
"I'm going to smash him like easy. Bobby Green is going to be harder for me than him."