Islam Makhachev denies Dana White's claims he turned down Rafael dos Anjos fight

Lightweight contender, riding 10-fight win streak, wants to fight for title in Abu Dhabi this year

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UFC lightweight Islam Makhachev says he never turned down a short-notice clash with Rafael dos Anjos on Sunday but in fact asked the promotion to make the bout - while he also reiterated his “dream” to fight for the title in Abu Dhabi later this year.

Makhachev, the division’s No 3-ranked contender, publicly offered to take on Dos Anjos in the co-main event at UFC 272 after the Brazilian’s original opponent, Rafael Fiziev, contracted Covid-19.

The pair exchanged messages on social media confirming they were both willing to fight, but Dos Anjos eventually went on to face Renato Moicano, defeating his compatriot by unanimous decision. UFC president Dana White, meanwhile, told the media that Makhachev turned down the Dos Anjos opportunity.

The Dagestan native, 30, was coming off a victory against Bobby Green the previous week, when his dominant first-round TKO lifted his win streak to 10.

However, seeking to give his version of events, Makhachev told ESPN early on Tuesday: "I was in California on vacation, and I called my manager and said, 'Please call the UFC, I am ready to take this fight’.

“I asked about some conditions, very small conditions, nothing big or not possible to do. It was not the UFC calling me. I wanted this fight, but the UFC did not do it. That's it."

Makhachev, whose professional MMA record reads 22-1, would not say what the stipulations were, but said he did not agree with White that he should next rebook his bout with Beneil Dariush. Dariush, the No 4-ranked challenger at lightweight, was Makhachev’s initial opponent last week before getting injured in training and leaving Green to step-in.

"[White] can say whatever he wants, it doesn't matter," Makhachev said. "I'm going to fight anyone, because I'm going to be a champion, and I'll fight all the top 10. I'm going to beat all these guys.

“When I take this belt, I'm going to beat Dos Anjos, all these guys. But the UFC has a show in Abu Dhabi in November, and I think I'm deserving.”

The UFC is expected to return to the capital later this year, although as of yet no date has been confirmed. Makhachev told The National last month that he wants to fight for the belt in Abu Dhabi – he has competed twice in the emirate already – and feels that current champion Charles Oliveira will be the man standing across from him in the octagon. The Brazilian defends his title against No 1-ranked contender Justin Gaethje in May, at UFC 274.

"If Charles Oliveira beats Justin Gaethje, it would be an 11-fight win streak versus a 10-fight win streak. This is similar to [former champion] Khabib [Nurmagomedov] versus Tony Ferguson. This is biggest fight in lightweight division," Makhachev said.

“You know why I want to fight in Abu Dhabi? Because Abu Dhabi is open for anyone, a lot of people can come. Abu Dhabi is like a second home for me; it’s two hours flight from my house. All the people who followed my professional career, my many fans around the world, can come to Abu Dhabi to support me there. My dream is to take this belt in Abu Dhabi.”

Makhachev, who claimed he will move to welterweight after defending the lightweight title three to five times, dismissed again suggestions that Conor McGregor could fight immediately for the belt when the former two-division champion returns from injury.

"I think this is fake," Makhachev said. "It's for the fans, to make something interesting. It's going to be hard for him to make 155 [lbs]... a lot of people will smash him. He is going to fight Nate Diaz or some old people to make some money. He's never going to be champion again."

Updated: March 08, 2022, 7:22 AM