Islam Makhachev has reiterated his desire to take on Charles Oliveira for the vacant lightweight title in Abu Dhabi in October, even declaring he will finish the former champion at his own game.
Oliveira, who secured the vacant crown last year, was stripped of the belt before his slated defence against Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 earlier this month, when he missed championship weight by half a pound. The Brazilian went on to submit the former interim champion in the first round to extend his win streak to 11.
Makhachev, meanwhile, has won his past 10 in the UFC, and is expected to compete at UFC 281 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi on October 22. A potential opponent is still unconfirmed, with UFC president Dana White saying recently he wants to rebook Makhachev against Beneil Dariush – that fight fell through in February following an injury to the latter - but also that Oliveira-Makhachev appealed.
In an interview with ESPN published on Monday, Makhachev said: “The UFC said we have to find some contender, but this is not a contender match.
"We don’t have a champion. Charles is a contender, too. I hope I deserve it because I have a 10-fight win streak, and I’m ready. This is my primetime now.”
Makhachev, who has a solitary defeat from 23 pro MMA bouts, has for some time said he wants to fight in the UAE capital. The Dagestan native, a regular visitor to the UAE and hugely popular throughout the region, has fought in Abu Dhabi 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.
In February, in the build-up to his first-round TKO of Bobby Green in Las Vegas, Makhachev told The National that he would be “waiting for the champion” in Abu Dhabi.
On Monday, Makhachev told ESPN: “If Charles says I’m not ready or something, or he says Islam doesn’t deserve, but he asked to fight Nate Diaz or Conor [McGregor].
“I think Charles is a No 1 contender now. We don't have a champion because he didn’t make weight. He is not a professional. They have to make me versus Charles, 10-win streak vs. 11-win streak. It’s a very big fight.”
Oliveira, who professional MMA record now reads 33-8, has said he plans on fighting next in Brazil in December. Makhachev, though, claims the in-form submission expert is simply trying to avoid him.
Oliveira submits Gaethje at UFC 274
“Someone or Nate Diaz or Conor say, 'Let’s do in September'. He’s going fight in September, too,” Makhachev said. “He just runs because he knows his grappling or other skills aren’t going to work with me. He beat all striking guys like [Dustin] Poirier or [Michael] Chandler. All these guys, they have good striking.
“But when they drop him down, nobody goes to the grappling with him. Nobody holds him there. But we know when someone gives him a hard time he always gives up. I’m going to take him down, make him tired, and he’s going to give up like he did 10 times in the UFC.”
Makhachev, 30, added: “Everybody is scared of his grappling, but I don’t care about his grappling, honestly. I grapple with the best grapplers in the world. I grapple with Khabib all my life.
“That’s why I don’t care about his grappling. I know I’m going to take him down, make him tired, and I can finish him there. Everybody says grappling is his area, but I’m going to finish him in his area.”