Islam Makhachev currently rules the roost in the UFC lightweight division.
The 31-year-old Dagestani has just one loss in his career and is undefeated since October of 2016.
He’s taken on and beaten any and all comers, including former champ Charles Oliveira (who he dethroned) and featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski (who was hoping to become a double champion).
But one notable name not on Makhachev’s hit list is that of Beneil Dariush.
Dariush, like Makhachev, entered his UFC 289 fight with Oliveira riding a massive, multi-year win streak. A win over the former champion would’ve put him directly in line for a shot at Makhachev’s belt.
Instead, it was Oliveira would walked out with a first-round, TKO victory. That puts him in line for future rematch with Makhachev.
Though Makhachev says he would’ve rather squared off with Dariush.
“The fight was good,” Dariush told reporters at an Eagle FC event over the weekend per YukaHero. “Oliveira won, but I was rooting for Dariush. I thought it would be a new challenge for me. Dariush had eight wins in a row. I don’t know. I can’t say yet if my next fight will be a rematch against Charles. We have to wait. Now Justin and Dustin will fight, and then the UFC will decide.”
But Makhachev claims his disappointment has nothing to do with Oliveira, but rather the intrigue of stepping into the cage with Dariush.
“Of course I want a new name on my resume,” he continued. “It’ll be better for me. [But] if I don’t fight Oliveira now, everyone will say that I am avoiding him. I never choose my opponents. I will fight anyone the UFC gives me.”
Oliveira’s coach, Diego Lima, is confident his fighter can regain the title.
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) June 19, 2023
But Makhachev is unbothered and unafraid.
“I don’t think he can do anything,” he said of his potential foe. “I’m not afraid of his grappling like the rest of the fighters. I can take him down at any time.”
Thankfully, we’ll seemingly get a chance to answer to that question in the not too distant future.