Las Vegas, NV — UFC lightweight Islam Makhachev was supposed to throw down with former 155lb champ Rafael dos Anjos late last year.
It would have, without question, been the biggest fight of Makhachev’s career. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. In a common scenario in pandemic era MMA, one fighter, dos Anjos, had to pull out due to COVID-19. The fight was rebooked, but this time, it was Makhachev, a longtime teammate of former champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, pulling out due to a staph infection.
Now, Makhachev returns this weekend at UFC 259, where he faces the surging Drew Dober. When it comes to an opponent, Makhachev is just happy to be competing. “I have to fight because, almost three years, I’m not fighting,” he noted, speaking at the UFC 259 media day in Las Vegas.
The 29-year old has not fought since September 2019. He’s been idle pretty much for all of Dober’s current run. On the Dober front, Makhachev noted that “he has good striking, good conditioning. But I think I have more than him.”
Makhachev is targeting someone from the top five moving forward — especially given that Dober has fallen out of the rankings. One name in particular stands out: dos Anjos. It’s a fight the Dagestani would very much like to revisit.
“I was asking my manager to give me this guy again, because the first time, he’s sick, he got corona. Second time, I was sick. He’s a very, very good opponent for me, because he’s a big name, UFC champion,” stated Makhachev. “Maybe after this fight, we’re going to fight.”
Makhachev’s staph infection actually put him on the sidelines for three to four weeks. Two to three of those were pretty much just rest, no training. But now, he enters UFC 259 against Dober, with some high praise from teammate Daniel Cormier — who has suggested that Makhachev could some day been champion.
“I trained with DC like the last five years, that’s why he talks like this,” responded Makhachev. “Because we’re wrestling a lot together, sparring. He watched all my sparring in AKA [American Kickboxing Academy].”
“Ask him about [our] wrestling match,” he added. Interesting.
Watch the full UFC 259 media day scrum with Islam Makhachev above. The event takes place this Saturday, March 6 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.