In the fiercely competitive universe of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), very few fighters have managed to carve a niche for themselves as prominently as Islam Makhachev. As the combat sports fraternity waits with palpable excitement for UFC 294, the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi prepares to be more than just a venue. On October 21, it will transform into a battlefield where Makhachev defends his Lightweight crown against Charles Oliveira. But beyond this immediate contest, there are rumblings of Makhachev’s grander ambitions – aspirations that reach out to the welterweight title.
Makhachev’s journey in UFC has been nothing short of remarkable. With a record that boasts of 24-1 in MMA and 13-1 in UFC, he’s no stranger to the spotlight’s glare or the pressure of high-profile matches. As he squares off with Oliveira, a past adversary, Makhachev has his strategy for the future well-charted, especially when it comes to the welterweight championship.
His candid discussion with ESPN provided a glimpse into his aspirations and the fire that fuels them. “I don’t know what the UFC has planned, but my dream fight is for the second belt,” Makhachev revealed, setting the stage for future epic encounters. His commitment to the sport and the championship is evident when he added, “Of course, I am under contract, so whatever the UFC says, I will fight, no problem.”
Leon Edwards vs. Colby Covington – this welterweight clash scheduled for December 16 is more than just another fight for Makhachev. He eyes it as a potential gateway to his dual-championship dreams. His preference is clear; he’s rooting for Covington. A matchup against Covington, he believes, promises not just a battle of fists and kicks, but a collision of fighting cultures and ethos. “It’s going to be U.S. wrestling vs. Dagestan wrestling,” Makhachev projected, underlining the global essence of this potential encounter.
His self-belief is unwavering. Makhachev respects both Edwards and Covington, yet when he juxtaposes their capabilities against his own, he visualizes enthralling future contests. “I look at their skills… and I know my skills. It’s going to be a good fight,” he reiterated with confidence.
But before charting his future conquests, Makhachev has the formidable task of retaining his title against Oliveira. The duo shares a past, where Oliveira unexpectedly found himself bested by Makhachev. This defeat, it seems, lingers in Oliveira’s mind, an observation Makhachev was quick to point out, saying, “That fight reminds him of the time he gave up.”
Oliveira’s voiced concerns about the venue for their rematch have also garnered attention. He feels an undue advantage is being given by having the rematch in Abu Dhabi. But Makhachev, always the seasoned fighter, recalls his challenges, notably his bout against Volkanovski in Perth. Addressing Oliveira’s reservations, Makhachev responded, “Charles, I asked to fight in the US in the summer, but UFC has other plans… everything you say makes no sense.”
Islam Makhachev’s trajectory in UFC is a testament to dedication, tenacity, and an unyielding spirit. As he sets his sights on dual-championship glory, MMA enthusiasts worldwide are on the edge of their seats. The questions loom large: Will Makhachev solidify his legacy with a triumphant defense against Oliveira? If he emerges victorious, will his dream of welterweight gold see the light of day?