Dana White Open to Makhachev Welterweight Shot After UFC 302, But Tsarukyan Fight “Needs to Happen”

Newark, NJ — Coming out of UFC 302, UFC President and CEO Dana White was impressed enough with Islam Makhachev and the card’s main event to award double bonuses to his lightweight champ.

“Incredible fight. Both guys dug deep. Absolute war,” a clearly impressed White said following the event, speaking with media outlets including Cageside Press. “Islam is tough as hell, and talented. He ate some big body shots tonight, took that elbow to the forehead. And I thought that Porier did an unbelievable job of stuffing takedowns, and getting up when he was in nasty positions. Staying out of that submission in the first round.”

“You couldn’t ask for more for a main event title fight.”

The win for Makhachev has brought about talk of the lightweight champ moving to welterweight for a second belt. Islam said as much during his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan; he’s now won fourteen straight in the UFC, a feat even mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov didn’t achieve, ending his career 27-0, but 13-0 inside the octagon.

Asked about Makhachev stepping in if Belal Muhammad dropped out of his fight with Leon Edwards, White noted that “Islam’s accomplished a lot of things in that division. He’s done some incredible stuff. I don’t know. We’d have to get in and talk about it, look at it.”

That said, he’s not adverse to Islam getting a welterweight title shot under the right conditions. “Right. Yeah. The guy has accomplished a lot, and obviously in this division. Yeah, we’ll look at it. Yeah.”

Arman Tsarukyan’s name was later brought up, with White asked if that lightweight fight could take place in Russia.

“That’s the fight to make. That’s the fight. That’s the fight everybody wants to see, that’s the fight that needs to happen,” replied White. “When we were talking earlier about [Islam Makhachev] moving up, if I was him I wouldn’t even think about moving up until he had that fight. But I don’t know about having that fight in Russia. I don’t know where we would do it.”

Russia is under heavy sanctions after invading Ukraine, with the two countries still at war. White admitted he wasn’t even sure they could hold an event in Russia as a result. “I have no idea. I have no clue.”

The BMF title could also be an option for Russia’s Makhachev, a notion brought up by one reporter. White said in response that “we’re working on the BMF title right now, but Islam is one of the greatest fighters in the world ever in that division and one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters. So I don’t think he’d be fighting for the BMF. The Tsarukyan fight is what we like. That’s the fight we want to do.”

Watch the full UFC 302 post-fight press conference with Dana White above.