Islam Makhachev Says Dustin Poirier, Coach Don’t Believe They Can Win at UFC 302

Newark, NJ — Lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, having defeated Alexander Volkanovski twice and having briefly been linked to a rematch with Charles Oliveira, is happy to have a new opponent to face off with this Saturday at UFC 302.

“I don’t like the rematch, because you don’t have new motivation. Always you need to find some new target, new goal,” Makhachev (25-1) explained, speaking to media outlets including Cageside Press during the UFC 302 media day on Wednesday. “But when you have rematch, it’s the same. Same opponent. Sparring partner’s [are] the same, which ones you choose, you know? That’s why I always want some new name.”

While Dustin Poirier is a new opponent for Makhachev, “The Diamond” is not at all new to Makhachev’s team. Khabib Nurmagomedov, who now serves as coach to the champ, defeated Poirier at UFC 242 in 2019. Despite nearly five years having passed, Makhachev doesn’t see much of a difference in his upcoming opponent.

“Honestly he’s the same. Maybe become more old, and he doesn’t believe he can beat me. His coach doesn’t believe he can beat me,” stated Makhachev. “And I know I can make this fight easy.”

Coach Khabib has predicted a finish. Makhachev, for his part, agrees. “Yeah, I will finish him. Because I’m in the different level. I’m the best fighter in the world right now.”

As for why Poirier and his team might be doubting their chances, Islam Makhachev feels it’s because of the clash of styles. “Honestly my style is the worst style for him, that’s why. He can beat some striker, he beat one of the best strikers in this game, but we’re not strikers. We’re MMA fighters, and my skills are on a different level.”

Some might be tempted to beat Poirier at his own game, and on that note, the champ stated simply that “I can strike with him, but I told you guys, if I want to make this fight easy, I know the way.”

Khabib Nurmagomedov returns to Islam Makhachev’s corner at UFC 302, after the former lightweight champ turned coach took a step back from cornering due to the travel involved. That matters not just to the current champ, but his teammates, Makhachev explained.

“This means a lot. It’s like a plus to striking, 20%, to wrestling 20%, and to the plan. It’s always great to have, I think everybody has their Khabib in their corner. He gave me good advice in a lot of fights. I remember, with Gleison Tibau, he told me to try to land a left hook. I did, and I finished him with the hook. He came me very good advice.”

In his title fights as well, Khabib has imparted sage wisdom on the champ. “It’s always good to have Khabib in the corner. It’s not just for me, good news. Everybody was happy when Khabib said ‘I will corner,'” he added. “Everybody understands, he’s going to corner them too, and everybody was happy.”

As to why Khabib has chosen now to make his return to the corner, “I think number one, he missed the feeling, and I think he’s very nervous when he sits in a room and watches the fight. He always takes care of us, and he wants to help. That’s why he’s here, he’s going to be in my corner.”

Watch the full UFC 302 media day appearance by Islam Makhachev above.