- Islam Makhachev is grateful for the ongoing support of his mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov.
- Nurmagomedov generated great acclaim in MMA because of how he ruled over the lightweight division.
- Makhachev, who is also a lightweight, is beginning to score good wins of his own.
Like Nurmagomedov, Makhachev comes from Dagestan in Russia, and is renowned for his dominant sambo style of fighting.
He also competes at lightweight, the division Nurmagomedov ruled over as an unbeaten fighter, scalping many of the sport’s biggest names – such as Rafael dos Anjos, Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje.
Makhachev has been fighting since 2010. He joined the UFC in 2015 and is beginning to score wins over good names himself – like his back-to-back submission victories over Drew Dober and Thiago Moises this year.
The 30-year-old competes again Saturday in a 155-pound contest involving New Zealand striker Dan Hooker, and a win could advance his rank as the No.5 contender in the division.
Nurmagomedov’s support, and the coaching of American Kickboxing Academy founder Javier Mendez, has been crucial during this time, he said.
“I’m training with Khabib all the time and he give me like very big support,” Makhachev told reporters at a media event Insider attended in Abu Dhabi, days ahead of his UFC 267 fight in the emirate’s Etihad Arena.
“This is not pressure for me,” he added. “I’m just happy because I have some guy like him on my back.
“Khabib have big experience and now he’s … maybe him and Javier Mendez, my head coach, help me a lot, who give me game plan, help me in training camp.
“Khabib is not just some training or sparring partner. He can give me more because he has so much experience in this game.”
Makhachev will be leaning on that experience more and more as his opponents get tougher, and the stage he competes on gets bigger.
He said the UFC lightweight title landscape is currently uncertain as Charles Oliveira, the champion, defends his belt against Dustin Poirier at UFC 269 on December 11.
Justin Gaethje, meanwhile, fights Michael Chandler in a match at UFC 268 on November 6. Both athletes rank higher than Makhachev does currently.
Regardless of who holds the title in the coming months, Makhachev said he will do what he has always done.
“I’m going to be ready … They don’t need to ask me,” to fight for the championship, he said. “I’m just ready.”
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