Following a pair of significant bouts in the lightweight title picture, Islam Makhachev defeating Dan Hooker at UFC 267 and Justin Gaethje defeating Michael Chandler at UFC 268, there has been much debate and speculation on who will receive the next title shot.
The loudest voice in the room has been Gaethje. The American has insisted that his bout against Chandler was a title eliminator. He also believes that since he is the highest-ranked person in the queue, he deserves the next shot.
Meanwhile, Islam Makhachev and his mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov are among those who have countered Gaethje by reminding him that he has already had an opportunity just one fight ago when Nurmgomadov submitted him at UFC 254. Gaethje responded by ordering Makhachev to ‘do his job’ and fight Beneil Dariush.
Although Makhachev voiced his preference of going to war with Gaethje instead, their manager, Ali Abdelaziz, told TMZ that the current expectation is for Gaethje’s vision of what should happen to align with the UFC’s plans.
“Justin Gaethje is going to be next,” Abdelaziz said. “Probably, Beneil Dariush is going to fight Islam Makhachev. Probably, you are going to see Beneil Dariush fight Islam Makhachev and Justin Gaethje is going to fight for the title probably in May.”
Purely from a rankings perspective, this course of action makes sense. Gaethje is ranked #2, with current #1 contender Dustin Poirier set to challenge champion Charles Oliveira next month at UFC 269. Next, Dariush and Makhachev are ranked #3 and #4 respectively.
Dariush last defeated Tony Ferguson in May at UFC 262 to make for seven consecutive victories. That mark is two shy of Makhachev’s incredible nine-fight winning streak.
MMA News will keep you informed on if these fights become official or if there are any other updates regarding the lightweight title picture.