Khabib Nurmagomedov reigns atop the UFC Lightweight division as their champion. While Justin Gaethje is looking to unseat the incumbent Khabib at UFC 254, the latter serves as the champion right now. In fact, he probably is looking to extend his perfect record.
However, he also has one eye on the future without him. Nurmagomedov references to the plight of Lightweight fighter Islam Makhachev, who is having a hard time getting his next fight. Makhachev was scheduled to face off against Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 254, however, RDA had to pull out due to a positive COVID-19 test.
Makhachev is having a hard time finding a replacement, with him even calling out Michael Chandler and asking him to take the fight. It seems Makhachev will go without a booking, a thing the Lightweight Champion Khabib knows about.
Khabib had a similarly hard time finding top-level opposition during his run before becoming a champion. Ironically, he too fought Dos Anjos and defeated him. He eventually did get to the title and has since beaten Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. Makhachev is yet to fight his first high ranked opponent, so he must be willing to face anyone at this point. However, whether anyone is willing to face him is a different question.
Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev
If there is any active UFC fighter that is the closest to Khabib, it’s Makhachev. They are childhood friends, with them starting their combat training while growing up together. Both of them have a singular loss in MMA put together and 47 wins combined. Like Khabib, Islam is also a noted sambo specialist.
While Khabib ascended to the top of the MMA pyramid, Islam is still finding his bearings. The fight with RDA was going to be his first statement bout. A win over a former champion like dos Anjos would solidify his status as a top contender. Getting a Michael Chandler fight may be hard, but Islam deserves top-level opposition.
Whether the UFC can find a replacement fast enough for UFC 254 is unknown. But it is a shame to see Makhachev go without a fight. He is currently on a six-fight win streak and last fought in 2019.