We are no closer to finding out who will challenge for the UFC lightweight championship after UFC 269, so Justin Gaethje and Islam Makhachev continue to fill the waiting room with contentious chatter.
Business has picked up in the UFC’s lightweight division as of late. At UFC 267, Makhachev swiftly disposed of Dan Hooker with a first-round submission victory. This made nine consecutive victories for Makhachev and bumped him up to #4 in the rankings. One month later, Gaethje and Michael Chandler put on a Fight of the Year candidate at UFC 268, which ultimately saw “The Highlight” survive the flames of another war.
Justin Gaethje Gives Islam Makhachev A Marching Order
Prior to the bout between Gaethje and Chandler, there was already debate about who should be next in line for a crack at the lightweight championship. Should it be Islam Makhachev or the winner of Gaethje’s bout against Chandler? Both Gaethje and Chandler dismissed Makhachev from the championship conversation and insisted that their bout was a title eliminator.
Nevertheless, the debate has only picked up since Gaethje’s victory. Fighters, fans, and media members have all weighed in on who they believe should meet the winner of Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira’s upcoming bout. But as far as Justin Gaethje is concerned, he’s already done his job to earn the title shot. Now, it’s Islam Makhachev’s turn to do his (h/t MMA Fighting).
“Makhachev fought No. 14, went to No. 5 and fought a late replacement in Dan Hooker,” Gaethje said on the UFC Unfiltered podcast. “It wasn’t Dan Hooker on a full camp. It does not count as much, but still, it’s two top 15 guys, none in the top five, only one in the top 10. That’s not how this sh*t works.
“Do your f*cking job, fight these guys, and Beneil Dariush is right here. And I like the dude, he’s my friend so you know I’m just going to jump over this man and expect to get a title shot when the No. 3 guy is Beneil Dariush. Handle that. That has to be handled.”
Islam Makhachev Accepts An Expedited War
Beneil Dariush (#3) is, in fact, currently ranked ahead of Islam Makhachev (#4) in the lightweight rankings. Like Makhachev, Dariush is also enjoying an extraordinary winning streak, stringing together seven straight W’s, most recently over “El Cucuy” himself, Tony Ferguson.
At any rate, if Makhachev heard Gaethje’s demand, it’s impossible to notice. That is because he was too busy holding Gaethje to some of his other recent remarks, which is that a war is coming if and when the two meet in the future. The dominant Dagestani is primed and ready to stop the talking and begin the battle to settle who should rightfully advance to championship territory.
“So we’ll go to war,” Makhachev tweeted with a crossed swords emoji.
Makhachev isn’t the only person to make this suggestion. The man currently occupying the challenger role they are vying for, Dustin Poirier, thinks it would make sense for these two to fight it out to settle who should be next in line for the title shot. Makhachev’s head coach, Javier Mendez, believes it will ultimately come down to the fans to determine who’s next.
Opinions and debate aside, Gaethje has been adamant and consistent in his belief that he has already earned another title shot. If the UFC brass agrees, Makhachev may have to steer his artillery in the direction of Beneil Dariush or whoever else is brave enough to tussle with the seemingly unshakeable.
Which fight do you think makes more sense at this current juncture: Justin Gaethje vs. Islam Makhachev, or Islam Makhachev vs. Beneil Dariush?