Khabib Nurmagomedov has a lot of respect for the man he last shared the octagon with, but that doesn’t mean he’s changing his stance in regards to who should be next in line for the UFC lightweight title.
The since-retired former champion made headlines for his reaction to Justin Gaethje believing that his victory over Michael Chandler at UFC 268 makes him the No. 1 contender to face the winner of the UFC 269 championship matchup between Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier.
“In last 8 fight, you got finished 3 times Justin. You had an opportunity to become champion, but you fell asleep,” Nurmagomedov said of Gaethje while commenting on an ESPN Instagram post.
“Islam [Makhachev] is on the 9 win streak, 3 fight in 2021 and all finishes. Just shut up and admit that Islam deserves this title shot, not you.”
In a recent interview with ESPN, Nurmagomedov was asked about those comments — which “The Eagle” is not planning on taking back any time soon.
“I respect Justin, I love this guy,” Nurmagomedov said. “This guy’s a very good guy. In 2016 when I was cutting weight for my fight with Darrel Horcher, he helped me cut weight for the last couple of days.
“I just shared with him my opinion. My opinion, Islam deserved [the title shot over him]. Of course, I understand Justin’s very exciting. He’s the real highlight. But my opinion is my opinion.”
In addition, Nurmagomedov states he was the one who wrote the comments, not his longtime manager — and manager of both Makhachev and Gaethje — Ali Abdelaziz.
Makhachev is now slated to face Beneil Dariush in the main event of the UFC’s Feb. 26 event, where the winner will likely fight for the 155-pound strap at some point in 2022.
Nurmagomedov feels his protege’s next bout will determine who is the best lightweight in the world at present time. While Nurmgomedov is happy to see Makhachev get his second straight headliner, he still stands by that Makhachev should be the next man up for a championship opportunity.
“It doesn’t matter what weight class — lightweight, light heavyweight, any weight class in the UFC — if you have a nine-fight win streak, you have to fight for the title.”