Islam Makhachev willing to take on Michael Chandler for vacant UFC lightweight belt

Dagestan native reacts to call-out from Chandler, with Abu Dhabi in October a potential host

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Islam Makhachev has welcomed Michael Chandler’s call-out to face one another for the vacant UFC lightweight title, saying the bout would provide him “easy money”.

The Dagestan native, the division’s No 4-ranked challenger, has been angling for a clash against recently stripped champion Charles Oliveira, preferably in Abu Dhabi later this year.

The Brazilian, who still tops the divisional standings, lost the crown in May having missed weight for his defence against Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 – a bout he went on to triumph in spectacular fashion to extend his win streak to 11.

However, Oliveira has repeatedly said he would fight Makhachev only on his terms, preferring any encounter to take place in Brazil in December or January. The world's lead mixed martial arts promotion returns to Abu Dhabi with UFC 280 - it was formerly numbered UFC 281 - on October 22.

What's more, Oliveira has said his priority is securing a money-spinning title bout with Conor McGregor instead.

The uncertainty at lightweight prompted Chandler on Wednesday to throw his hat into the ring to take on Makhachev for the vacant strap, with the American posting on his Instagram story: “Hey, Charles, do your thing, bro. Wait until Conor comes back, you deserve it. On a couple fight win streak, smashing through everybody.

“Why don’t you sit out? Wait for Conor to come back, I’ll keep the division warm, I’ll keep the division going. I’ll fight Islam next... I’ll fight Islam for the title.

“And then whenever you get your so-called ‘super-fight’, do your thing, get it out of your system, then you can come back to our division. See you at the top.”

Chandler's public challenge got a reaction from Makhachev, who tweeted: “Easy money. Title is the goal, no matter who. Let’s go.”

Makhachev, who has 10 wins on the bounce, tagged in Chandler and the UFC as he continues to press for a title shot.

On Thursday, his manager Ali Abdelaziz tweeted that the UFC should book a championship bout between Makhachev and No 3-ranked contender Beneil Dariush for October – Abdelaziz also represents Dariush - with the winner then taking on Oliveira. The pair were supposed to fight in February only for Dariush to withdraw through injury.

Abdelaziz added on Thursday that Chandler, who defeated Tony Ferguson in May having lost his past two UFC outings, “was not on this championship run” to seemingly rule out any potential match-up with Makhachev.

Meanwhile, middleweight contender Darren Till has pulled out of his highly anticipated return at UFC London later this month against Jack Hermansson, citing injury. The UFC have since signed Chris Curtis as his replacement.

Updated: July 07, 2022, 11:20 AM