Islam Makhachev has been around for a while on the UFC roster, but the hype surrounding his name has never been higher than it is today.
With Khabib Nurmagomedov seemingly retired from the sport, Makhachev – Nurmagomedov’s friend, training partner and protege, is widely seen as the heir apparent to Khabib’s UFC lightweight crown. His dominant victory over Drew Dober at UFC 259 last weekend did nothing to dampen those expectations.
Makhachev’s commanding, grappling-based performance against Dober was the first time we’ve seen him compete in a year-and-a-half. The Dagestan-born combat sambo artist didn’t show a single sign of cage rust on Saturday night.
“2020 was a crazy year, all my fights got canceled,” Makhachev said in the UFC 259 post-fight press conference. “That’s why I’m very happy to be here now and get the finish. I’m very happy.
“The finish is always very important. I tried to finish him in the first round, but Dober is a very strong guy. He has like crazy power, that’s why I just tried to make him tired, make him work and finish him in the third round.”
Now on a seven-fight win streak and ranked 11th in the UFC lightweight pecking order, Makhachev immediately turned his sights on fighting an opponent that eluded Nurmagomedov for years – Tony Ferguson.
“My dream fight is Tony Ferguson. That’s my dream fight,” Makhachev said. “I just want to make him retire. He talks too much.
“Khabib is retired, now he keeps pressuring him, for what? I’m here, I have a seven-fight win streak, make this happen.”