Khabib Nurmagomedov says he has "goosebumps" waiting for Islam Makhachev’s lightweight title bout against Charles Oliveira in Abu Dhabi, warning the doubters to “prepare your excuses” ahead of his teammate's coronation.
Oliveira and Makhachev were last week confirmed to headline UFC 280 on October 22, when the world’s lead mixed martial arts promotion returns to Etihad Arena for the first time in a year.
Riding an 11-fight win streak, Oliveira will attempt to reclaim the lightweight crown after he was stripped of the belt for missing weight ahead of his title defence against Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 in May. Oliveira, 33-8 as a professional, went on to submit Gaethje in the first round.
Makhachev, meanwhile, has won his past 10 bouts to climb to the No 4-ranked contender at lightweight. The Dagestani, 22-1, is a close friend and longtime teammate of Nurmagomedov, the former lightweight champion who retired undefeated, at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi in late 2020.
Nurmagomedov now coaches Makhachev, and has for some time touted him to be the next lightweight belt-holder.
In a post on his official Instagram, written in Russian, Nurmagomedov said: "Just goosebumps from waiting. Islam Makhachev is coming out for this fight against the best fighter at the moment in UFC. Oliveira is the best fighter of 2022. He is one of the best, regardless of the weight category.
“This fight will answer all questions. Someone reads history, and someone writes it. Prepare your excuses, we're aiming to beat Oliveira early."
Makhachev, 30, may hold a significant advantage over Oliveira in that the championship clash takes place in Abu Dhabi. A regular visitor to the UAE – he has trained for fights there in the past – the supreme wrestler has fought twice in the emirate already, winning both.
Speaking this week on The Mike Finch Show, Nurmagomedov said his team were planning another long stay in the Emirates to prepare for UFC 280.
"We're going to move to Dubai,” he said. “We're going to be there 40 days before the fight, no jet lag. It's very important because it's desert. It's a completely different place. I have fought there a couple of times, I know how to feel. Islam is always there with me, we know how to feel.
"You have to be there before the fight. We have 90 days before the fight and this, for me as a fan of MMA, is going to be the most exciting fight of this year right now."
UFC 280 features another title bout, with bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling defending his crown against former belt-holder TJ Dillashaw. Another three fights have been confirmed for the October 22 card, including a top bantamweight encounter between Petr Yan and Sean O'Malley.