UFC lightweight contender Beneil Dariush believes that when he earns the right to fight for the title, he’ll be needing to dethrone former interim champion Justin Gaethje.
Many believe Dariush has already done enough to secure his place opposite the division’s kingpin. Since a 2018 loss to Alexander Hernandez left him 0-2-1 in three outings, the Iranian-born American has built an impressive seven-fight winning streak. During the run, Dariush had his hand raised after highlight-reel knockouts against Drakkar Klose and Scott Holtzman and decision victories over Diego Ferreira and Tony Ferguson.
Dariush will be looking to ensure he gets his first title shot in the promotion next year. To do so, he’ll have to get past the challenge of surging Dagestani Islam Makhachev. The two top-five lightweights are expected to headline a UFC Fight Night card on February 26.
Dariush Foresees Championship Glory For “The Highlight”
While both Dariush and Makhachev undoubtedly had a rightful claim to be fighting for gold in their next fights, one man has seemingly cemented his position as number one contender.
After falling short of the title against Khabib Nurmagomedov last October, Justin Gaethje found himself snubbed of the chance to fight for the vacant gold after “The Eagle” retired, and without an opponent until last month.
But when he did return to action, he did so in style. At UFC 268, Gaethje faced Michael Chandler, who’d fought for the belt in May against Charles Oliveira. In a Fight of the Year contender, “The Highlight” emerged victorious on the scorecards, likely securing his place opposite the winner of this weekend’s UFC 269 main event between Oliveira and Dustin Poirier in 2022.
Dariush, who considers Gaethje to be a friend, is tipping the 33-year-old to go all the way. In an interview with ESPN MMA, the 32-year-old predicted that when he fights for the title, it’ll be against the current #2-ranked lightweight contender.
“Once Justin Gaethje pops into the picture, I would lean heavy towards him, as far the championship fight. So, man, it sucks. I don’t wanna fight a friend, and I do consider Justin a friend; he’s an amazing guy. But I think he’ll be holding the belt when the time comes.”
Before that scenario comes to fruition, a number of fights will have to play out, starting with this Saturday’s headliner. In his first defense, Oliveira will face the challenge of “The Diamond,” who’s coming off back-to-back victories over Conor McGregor in 2021.
Do you agree with Beneil Dariush? Do you think he’ll be challenging Justin Gaethje for the title if he beats Islam Makhachev?