Islam Makhachev (25-1) has spoken out regarding his next match in a recent interview, but what he said has been received as troubling by some.
Fans have been eagerly awaiting the UFC lightweight title rematch between Makhachev and Charles Oliveira (34-9) since their first meeting in October 2022, in which Makhachev finished things in the second round with a constricting arm triangle choke. But, it seems the Russian is targeting a new opponent and voiced his lack of interest in rematches at this stage.
Furthermore, Makhachev named Justin Gaethje (25-4), the recently crowned BMF titleholder, as the man he is most interested in facing currently.
“To be honest, I’ve already told [UFC] I’m not interested in rematches,” Makhachev said in an interview in Russia over the weekend. “Because if you want to [be a champion] in a good way, you have to add new names. There is Gaethje, who I would say deserved a fight. I think it would be more interesting to fight him. I think in March, maybe.”
(h/t “king Makhachev” on X)
The Oliveira rematch was originally scheduled for UFC 294 in October. Unfortunately, the Brazilian suffered a nasty cut above his eye in sparring that resulted in him needing to withdraw from the fight. To salvage the event, Alexander Volkanovski stepped in on short notice to face the lightweight champion.
Makhachev made quick work of his opponent, as he rattled Volkanovski with a devastating head kick and finished him off with hammer fists in the first round.
— ISLAM PFP #1 🐐 👑 🇵🇸 (@ISLAM_PFP_1) October 24, 2023
This was of course the second time Makhachev defeated Volkanovski, as the Australian fell short in their initial match at UFC 294 in February, losing by unanimous decision. It is clear that this contributed to Makhachev constantly feeling that he is stuck in a pattern of rematches, which is making the champion crave some fresh opponents.
Gaethje is most recently coming off a massive knockout victory of Dustin Poirier (29-8) in July, and a majority decision over Rafael Fiziev (12-3) back in March. The BMF titleholder has been quite vocal that he deserves the next lightweight title shot. Gaethje even voiced that he would sit on the sidelines while he waits for Makhachev vs. Oliveira II to play out, then take his shot afterward.