Morning Report: Coach lays out fight roadmap for Islam Makhachev, wants welterweight title in 2025

Islam Makhachev is still awaiting his next challenger at lightweight.

The reigning champion of the consistently talent-rich weight class hasn’t fought since he established himself as the UFC’s No. 1-ranked pound-for-found fighter in October. Tasked with the then-featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski for the second straight time, Makhachev silenced all doubt from the first encounter when he head-kicked his way to a first-round stoppage.

It won’t be for a few more months until the 32-year-old can get something lined up for his third defense. UFC 300 in April will feature all of the top options for Makhachev’s opponent as BMF champion Justin Gaethje will face Max Holloway and Charles Oliveira has to overcome Arman Tsarukyan. Makhachev’s coach Javier Mendez has a specific idea of how he hopes to see things play out, including fights with men from each of those bouts before moving on to welterweight.

“After Ramadan, I’m hoping the UFC will fight Islam at Madison Square Garden, only because it’s good for his marketability to fight in the U.S.,” Mendez told Casino Alpha. “That’s what I’d like, but right now there’s no fight on the horizon for him just yet. I’m sure soon the UFC will announce a return for him, but just not yet.

“Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira, and then the welterweight title. They would be my three next fights for Islam. I’d like to see Islam become the welterweight world champion in 2025. I’d love to see that, and I know he would too. If we get two fights this year, who knows, you might see the UFC offer him a title shot sooner.”

As for the prospect of Makhachev at welterweight, it apparently has already been discussed internally by the promotion. UFC CEO Dana White revealed in the UFC 298 post-fight press conference this past Saturday that welterweight title holder Leon Edwards was offered three matchups that didn’t come to fruition for UFC 300. Per MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani, one of those was Makhachev.

Meanwhile, another big fight between lightweights has been brewing for far too long at this stage. That’s the clash of Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler, even though it likely won’t take place in their usual 155-pound weight class.

No stranger to McGregor as he coached Khabib Nurmagomedov against the Irishman, Mendez isn’t concerned about anything involving Makhachev. However, he does hope McGregor returns just for the potential of another defeat.

“I think McGregor-Chandler happens because Conor’s too much of a fighter not to fight again,” Mendez said. “I’d love to see him fight, but I’d love to see him lose, too. I’d like to see him fight because I’d like to see him lose because I don’t think he’s a good person. He brought pain to a lot of people and hit my nerves when he said ‘Father evil, COVID good.’ He was referencing Khabib’s father. The whole world suffered through COVID. F you, McGregor. All the tragedy felt throughout the world, I don’t care who you are, you can’t say that sort of thing.

“How could he say that? What if he lost his whole family because of COVID? That one right there made me speak against him. I’d love to see Chandler-Conor get made, because I’d love to see him lose.”

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Will Islam Makhachev challenge for UFC welterweight gold at some point?

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