Islam Makhachev wants to keep adding fresh names to his hit list.
The UFC lightweight champion awaits the second defense of his title after winning a pound-for-pound duel against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski this past February at UFC 284. While a rematch with Volkanovski remains a possibility given how closely fought their first contest was, a new contender could also emerge from the upcoming Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush fight, which takes place at UFC 288 on May 6.
Makhachev defeated Oliveira in lopsided fashion to become champion, so he’s reluctant to line up another title bout against the Brazilian star.
“Honestly, I don’t know. I hope Beneil wins because I already beat Oliveira and I need some new challenge,” Makhachev said in an interview with BT Sport.
“Dariush is going to be a good fight because this guy has good skills, striking skills, wrestling skills, and grappling skills. That’s right, it’s going to be a good fight,” Makhachev later added. “But Oliveira, if he wants a rematch, if he shows a good performance, maybe he’s going to be next. I don’t know.”
Lightweight remains one of the deepest divisions in the sport and several key matchups lay ahead that could also produce fresh challengers for Makhachev, including a March 18 bout at UFC 286 between Justin Gaethje and Rafael Fiziev, and a clash between Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler that is expected to take place after they coach against one another on The Ultimate Fighter 31.
Makhachev isn’t making either McGregor or Chandler a priority, but understands what a fight with the popular McGregor could mean to his bank account.
“I’m not watching this because they’re both such smart guys,” Makhachev said. “Conor chose Chandler. Chandler lost on purpose because if he beat a couple of guys it was never going to happen, versus McGregor. Of course [I think he lost on purpose.] He fights like crazy, like he comes from the streets. That’s why they make the fight.”
“[McGregor] does not deserve [a title shot] if he beats Chandler or some of the guys,” Makhachev added. “But if UFC want, why not? Make some good money. Let’s go.”
One thing is for certain: When a contract comes, Makhachev is ready to sign. Though he went a hard five rounds with Volkanovski, the UFC lightweight champion doesn’t appear to have any lingering injuries and he’s looking to reenter the octagon soon.
“I’m just waiting for call,” Makhachev said. “When the UFC calls me and when they put someone in front of me, I will be ready.”