Islam Makhachev plans to fight for the UFC lightweight title on Saturday. It doesn’t matter if his opponent is Charles Oliveira or Alexander Volkanovski, he’s planning to fight for gold. However, given the option, there’s no doubt that Makhachev would prefer to face Oliveira, if only to avoid the chatter of fight fans.
The UFC lightweight belt currently sits vacant following the UFC’s decision (not the Arizona State Athletic Commission) to strip Oliveira of that title, after the Brazilian failed to make championship weight ahead of UFC 274. A titleless Oliveira submitted Justin Gaethje on that May card. Speaking to the media (via MMA Fighting) ahead of UFC 280, Makhachev said that weight miss didn’t hurt Oliveira’s standing.
“He’s a champion but he have to show all fighters a good example,” Makhachev said. “He has to be professional. I hope he’s going to make weight [this] time.”
If Oliveira misses weight at UFC 280, the UFC has featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski on hand to serve as an emergency backup.
Makhachev sounds entirely willing to face Volkanovski for the title, but would prefer the UFC didn’t exercise that option.
“Honestly, I met Volkanovski downstairs, he’s a short guy,” Makhachev said. “I ask him why you need to cut weight right now? But if I beat Volkanovski people are going to say [I beat a smaller opponent] but people are always going to talk.
“[Right now] I want to fight with Charles, and I hope he’s going to make weight. But it doesn’t matter. This camp, I trained so hard, it doesn’t matter who is going to be there. Saturday night, I need someone.”
Makhachev enters UFC 280 as the No. 4 ranked fighter in the official UFC lightweight rankings, three spots behind Oliveira. The 31-year-old is on a 10-fight winning streak, which is one less consecutive victory than Oliveira currently has to his name.
UFC 280 takes place at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. The main card streams on ESPN+ following prelims on ESPNEWS.
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