Islam Makhachev is walking into his first headlining fight with the pressure of his mentor looming.
The UFC is the pinnacle for MMA in the world. To get to the top means you are the best at what you do. Being the best in the world and having to show your skills to fans around the world can bring pressure in itself, but what if you are constantly being compared to a legend? That is what Makhachev is dealing with. He is trying to build his own career while being compared to his coach and mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Having these comparisons may have helped Makhachev get to where he is today, on his way to his first UFC headlining spot against Thiago Moises. Makhachev spoke to MMA Junkie about this pressure he feels.
“Yes, a little bit because everybody told me, ‘You have to be next. You have to be next champion,” Makhachev said. “That’s why I just have to (train) more, you know? What I can do? I just have to train.”
Nurmagomedov left the sport abruptly when he retired following his win at UFC 254. Ever since retiring he has been motivated to become one of the best coaches in the sport. A constant cheerleader for Makhachev, Nurmagomedov is high on his protege, and rightfully so.
Makhachev Is Rising In The Ranks & Wants Top Talent Next
Makhachev is only 29 years old and is 19-1. So far in the UFC, he has won eight bouts and is moving up the rankings. Although maybe never really tested against top opponents, Makhachev is confident he will be champion and is certainly not shying away from looking at top talent.
“After every fight, I’m waiting for some top opponent. And they (tell) me like, ‘You have to wait.’ I just (get) a little bit nervous about this. But this is gonna be my eighth fight win streak. They have to give me somebody because who have this win streak in the UFC? Just Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush have same, seven fights. This is gonna be my eight-fight win streak, and they have to give somebody.”
Among the names Makhachev has been asking for are UFC lightweight mainstays: Rafael dos Anjos, Beneil Dariush, and Tony Ferguson. With a win on Saturday night and the backing of Nurmagomedov, he might just get his wish.
Do you think Islam Makhachev will be UFC champion one day?