Islam Makhachev may have a new opponent for his main event assignment at UFC Fight Night 202 on Saturday night, but the Russian’s coach says the stakes remain the same ahead of fight night.
Makhachev was originally set to face Beneil Dariush in a bout that could have positioned the winner for a possible title shot later this year. Now he’s set to face Bobby Green but, despite the change in opponent, Makhachev’s head coach Javier Mendez said victory should still earn him a shot at UFC gold.
“I think Islam Makhachev gets a title fight with the win, with Bobby Green. Likely he should. A hundred percent he should,” he told Submission Radio.
“If you look at all the other guys, you look at Chandler, you look at Dustin, they’ve all had their shot and they’ve all failed. The only one that hasn’t had his shot and is still in that top tier is Islam Makhachev.
“So, should he win, which I expect he will, I expect that we’re going to get the title fight next.”
Makhachev was set to face fellow grappler Dariush, but now faces a very different type of opponent in Green, who is a slick striker who competed just two weeks ago at UFC 271, where he outpointed Nasrat Haqparast in impressive fashion in Houston, Texas.
Mendez said he’s a fan, but doesn’t give Green anything beyond a puncher’s chance of victory against his charge this weekend.
“Bobby Green. He’s an incredible guy,” he said.
“I love the fact that he’s a great entertainer, I love the fact that he comes to fight, gives the fans a great fight. I’m a fan. He’s a great fighter, and I love the opportunity that he’s been given. He’s been around for a long time, and how he’s been put on the spotlight. So, he has an opportunity to showcase that maybe he’s entitled to a title shot soon. We’ll see.
“My plan is to derail any thoughts he has of that. But anything can happen in the fight. One good shot can take care of anything. But outside of that, there’s no one that beats Islam Makhachev.
“I’ve been saying it from the beginning and I’ll continue saying it now, outside of knocking him out, you’re not gonna beat this guy. It’s just not gonna happen.”
Makhachev will head into Saturday night’s fight as a sizeable betting favorite, but some have suggested that Green’s tricky stand-up style could present unexpected problems for the Russian grappler.
But Green’s penchant to get involved in crowd-pleasing striking battles is something that Mendez said his fighter can turn against the American on fight night.
“He’s a very big threat on the striking, very elusive, and he likes to engage a lot,” he said.
“The biggest fault I would say is, the willing to engage as much as he does. That could alter what can happen to him and his mindset. His mindset is to entertain the crowd the vast majority of the time, and he accomplishes that.
“But I think his majority concern should be about how to win the fight the most effective way. And that’s one thing I know from watching all his fights. He doesn’t concern himself with that as much as entertaining. He’s an entertainer. He’s a great fighter that likes to entertain.
“Now, to me, that’s a little bit not necessarily what he needs to do. He needs to think about winning and what he needs to do to win, not entertain.”
Despite that comment, Mendez is also aware of the impending return to action of Conor McGregor, and admits it’s highly likely that, regardless of Makhachev’s performance against Green, McGregor could instantly jump the queue and grab a title shot before his fighter.
“That’s part of the game, that’s part of the game,” he admitted.
“He carries the big numbers, so whatever the UFC decides. I’m expecting anything can happen with the guy that has the power to do that. Do I like it? Absolutely not. But do I have a choice? Absolutely not.
“To me the rankings are bulls**t. They always have been bulls**t. They’re still bulls**t. So, I don’t really care about the rankings.”
“Whoever gets that opportunity, it’s like I always say, this is not a true sport, this is entertainment first, sport second. So, in the entertainment value, the UFC wants the most money. Who’s going to create the most money for them? That’s where they’re going to go. And guess what? That’s what they’re going to do.
“So, we’ll see, we’ll see what the UFC wants. I’m prepared for whatever they do, and I’m not going to be upset one way or another. Do I think it’s fair? Absolutely not. If Islam doesn’t get the title fight should he beat Bobby, it’s not fair. But nothing is fair. Look what Khabib had to do to get to where he was at. He had to go through a lot of crap, too.”