Following wins over Rafael Fiziev and Dustin Poirier this past year, Gaethje became the No. 1 contender in the division but it appeared he would still have to wait for his opportunity after Charles Oliveira got booked against Makhachev in October. Oliviera ultimately fell out of the fight after he suffered a gruesome cut during training that prevented him from competing and UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski replaced him on short notice.
Now Gaethje wants his chance to face Makhachev in the new year since Oliveira already fell out of a scheduled rematch.
“‘Do Bronx’ [Charles Oliveira] had his shot and didn’t show up for the rematch. It is what it is.”
The head kick reference pays homage to Gaethje knocking out Poirier with a vicious shot back in July that put him near the top of the lightweight rankings. Meanwhile, Makhachev delivered one of his own in the rematch with Volkanovski when they clashed for the second time in October.
For his part, Makhachev had previously called for new competition rather than seeking out rematches against past opponents like Oliviera so it seems like he’s on the same page as Gaethje.
As far as trading head kicks, Makhachev sent a not so subtle warning to Gaethje about a potential showdown should they meet in the near future.
“I can do more than kicking,” Makhachev wrote in response. “Be careful.”
The UFC has yet to officially book Makhachev’s next title defense so it’s impossible to know for certain who will land the fight with him. Makhachev typically doesn’t compete during Ramadan, which goes from March 10 to April 9 in 2024 so that might prevent him from fighting at the historic UFC 300 card on April 13, but he hasn’t addressed any possible dates yet for his return.