Sometimes, the media responsibilities get to be a little much, Islam Makhachev admitted ahead of UFC Vegas 49 this Saturday.
The lightweight contender also understands that “this is part of the game.”
As Makhachev (21-1) continues his rise through the lightweight ranks to the top of the sport, those media duties are going to become more and more a part of daily life for the Dagestani fighter. As the heir apparent to Khabib Nurmagomedov, the 30-year old appears poised to strike for the lightweight title.
His UFC Vegas 49 main event match-up with Beneil Dariush was almost certainly a title eliminator. And despite Dariush being forced out due to injury, a win over replacement Bobby Green should be enough to Makhachev to secure his shot at gold.
As far as he’s concerned, it could have been Dariush, Green, or just about anyone.
“Honestly when Beneil was injured, I told Ali [Abdelaziz] ‘find someone from the top ten,'” Makhachev recalled during Wednesday’s UFC Vegas 49 media day. By the next day, no one had responded to Makhachev’s manager. “I think, it’s not going to happen, and Ali said ‘just Bobby Green answered. He said he’s ready for you.’ I said ‘let’s go.’ It doesn’t matter who, because the last three months were so hard for me. I prepared for Beneil, training so hard, just give me someone.”
Despite the change in opponents, the game plan remains the same for Islam Makhachev. “I have always [the] same plan. Takedown, make them tired, and finish them there. Same plan I have with Bobby, too.”
Green’s stand-up skills were on display just two weeks ago, when he defeated Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 271. “This guy, he has a big heart because he took this fight [on one week’s notice]. And he has good boxing style,” Makhachev acknowledged. “About wrestling and grappling, we will check.”
Well aware that Green tends to be vocal in his fights, Makhachev later added “when I’m going to take him down, I’m going to ask a couple questions.”
On the horizon is a lightweight title fight between champ Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje. Makhachev sees Oliveira coming away with that win, and believes he’ll be next in line for the Brazilian.
“Of course, because it’s going to be my ten fight win streak. I really believe this is key for title fight,” Makhachev explained. “I think [lightweight champ Charles] Oliveira is going to beat Justin Gaethje, and eleven win streak versus ten win streak, this is going to be a big fight for all MMA fans.”
First, he added, “I have to finish Bobby Green first round, and I will do it.”
UFC Vegas 49 takes place Saturday, February 26, 2022 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, NV. Islam Makhachev faces Bobby Green in the main event.