The eagerly anticipated UFC 294 is set to showcase a rematch between lightweight champion Islam Makhachev and former champion Charles Oliveira. Scheduled to take place on October 21 in Abu Dhabi, this main event bout is already generating massive excitement among fight fans worldwide. But for Makhachev, this fight is not just about retaining his title; it’s a stepping stone towards a new challenge — the coveted welterweight strap.
As the undisputed No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Makhachev has expressed his deep-seated desire to face the winner of the upcoming clash between UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards and Colby Covington at UFC 296 in December. With his eyes fixed on a second belt, Makhachev draws inspiration from the UFC’s decision to allow Alexander Volkanovski, the featherweight champion, a chance to challenge him in February — a fight that Makhachev emerged victorious from via decision.
Speaking to ESPN, Makhachev conveyed his aspirations, stating, “I don’t know what the UFC has planned, but my dream fight is for the second belt. Of course, I am under contract, so whatever the UFC says, I will fight, no problem. But Edwards vs. Colby — I really believe I can beat [the winner]. I look at their skills and what they have as champions, and I know my skills. It’s going to be a good fight. I’m not saying I’m going to beat them easily. It’s going to be a hard, tough fight against a big guy. But I believe I can finish those guys.”
Makhachev’s confidence in his abilities has not gone unnoticed. While Edwards has largely ignored his interest in a champion vs. champion matchup, Covington recently dismissed Makhachev’s skills in an interview with My MMA News. Rather than being discouraged, Makhachev hopes for a Covington victory, as he believes it will increase the chances of the bout being arranged.
“I hope [Covington] wins, because I don’t know what Leon says about [fighting me],” Makhachev explained. “I’ve never heard Leon say he wants this fight. But Colby wants it. That’s why I want Colby to win, and we can meet one day. It would be a very good fight — U.S. wrestling vs. Dagestan wrestling. He’s a good fighter. He has good wrestling and good conditioning, but in my opinion, I can negate his wrestling and land many good punches.”
Focused on the Present, Eyes on the Future
Though the allure of a welterweight superfight looms large, Makhachev remains fully focused on his upcoming title defense against Oliveira. Not one to underestimate his opponents, Makhachev is acutely aware of the danger Oliveira poses. However, having already submitted the Brazilian fighter one year ago at UFC 280, Makhachev is understandably brimming with confidence.
Oliveira earned his title rematch by delivering a stunning knockout against Beneil Dariush in June. He has openly acknowledged that he had an off night in his previous encounter with Makhachev and even admitted to avoiding watching the replay of that defeat. Makhachev, perceptive as ever, believes this is indicative of Oliveira’s mental state.
“That fight reminds him of the time he gave up,” Makhachev reflected. “When he watches this fight, he remembers everything that happened there. He tried to push me and land some punches, but when he doesn’t have insurance, he just gives up. … This fight is interesting for the people, everybody wants to see this match again.”
The Journey Continues
As Makhachev steels himself for his clash with Oliveira, the path towards his ultimate goal of claiming the welterweight title becomes clearer. With each victory, he fortifies his case for a champion vs. champion fight, hoping to recreate history by giving another fighter the chance to dethrone him. It is through such audacious dreams and undeniable talent that Makhachev has earned his place among the elite fighters in the UFC. Fight fans will be eagerly watching as he navigates the treacherous waters of lightweight supremacy, ready to witness the next chapter in his quest for greatness.