Las Vegas, Nevada — At UFC 259 on Saturday night, lightweight Islam Makhachev certainly looked every bit the part of heir apparent to Khabib Nurmagomedov.
After two full rounds of dominating Drew Dober with stifling wrestling and superior grappling, Makhachev (19-1) submitted his foe in the third with a nasty-looking arm-triangle choke. With the Dagestani’s fighter’s shoulder putting unbearable pressure on him, Dober had no choice but to tap.
“I just feel great, because my last fight was like one and a half years ago,” Makhachev said after the bout. “That’s why now, I’m very happy.”
After what was unquestionably an impressive performance, Makhachev seemingly stepped into the role of his retired teammate Khabib by calling for a very familiar fight — against Tony Ferguson.
“RDA or Tony Ferguson. But my dream fight is Tony,” Makhachev said during the UFC 259 post-fight press conference. “Because we have some deal with him, a couple years [ago] now. He still, like, pressures Khabib. He says something, I don’t know. I don’t understand this guy, but I want to just help him retire. He’s old, his mind is a little bit crazy. That’s why I just want to help him.”
The history between “The Eagle,” who Makhachev is close friends with, and “El Cucuy” Ferguson is well known. The pair were scheduled to fight no fewer than five times in the UFC, with the bout falling through again and again. Most recently, it was last year’s UFC 249 card, with the coronavirus scuttling plans for what would have been a title fight.
All those bookings are in part why Makhachev wants the bout. After all, he helped Khabib prepare for them. “Little bit, yes. Because always when Khabib took this fight versus Tony, Tony’s southpaw. I’m southpaw too. That’s why, how many, five times? I helped Khabib for this fight. That’s why I know exactly how Tony works. I know a lot about him.”
Nurmagomedov has pushed for the bout as well. Asked why his training partner thinks the fight would be good for him, Makhachev replied that “Khabib and me have just almost the same technique. We have good wrestling, good grappling skills.” That’s another reason why, he added, that he wants the fight — to “show people how Khabib would take him down, control him, make him tired, make him tap. Everybody talks like Tony’s a hard fight for Khabib, but I never think like that. Because Khabib’s wrestling and grappling [are at] like a different level. Nobody has [wrestling and grappling] like that.”
Watch the full UFC 259 post-fight press conference with Islam Makhachev above.