Lightweight champion Islam Makhachev Sidelined until March Amid Rumors of a Return at UFC 297

Islam Makhachev

Despite recent reports claiming that Islam Makhachev would headline UFC 297 in January, the reigning UFC lightweight world champion is not expected to return to the Octagon until March at the earliest.

Following his first-round knockout of Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 294 last month, fight fans were hoping to see Islam Makhachev make a quick turnaround to defend his title against his originally scheduled opponent, Charles Oliviera, or current BMF titleholder Justin Gaethje. Unfortunately, that no longer appears to be the case.

After rumors surfaced that the ‘Dagestani Destroyer’ would defend his title against ‘Do Bronx’ at the promotion’s first pay-per-view of 2024, Makhachev’s manager Ali Abdelaziz revealed that his fighter won’t be ready to defend until March.

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Makhachev’s manager @AliAbdelaziz00 tells ESPN he has informed the UFC the earliest Makhachev will be ready to defend his title is March 9,” Okamoto wrote on X.

In a follow-up post, Okamoto added that, according to Dana White, Makhachev will not headline UFC 297 in January as previously reported. Islam Makhachev vs. Charles Oliveira 2 will not headline UFC 297 next month in Toronto, per Dana White. As of now, Oliveira does appear to be the most likely 155 challenger, although White tells ESPN, ‘Anything is possible, it’s whenever both are ready.'”

There were eight months between Islam Makhachev’s back-to-back title defenses against Alexander Volkanovski.

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Charles Oliveira Ready to Even the Odds with Islam Makhachev

Makhachev was expecting to defend his title against Charles Oliveira at UFC 294, but after suffering a cut above his right eye while sparring, ‘Do Bronx’ was forced to bow out of the bout, paving the way for Volkanovski to step in on just 11 days’ notice.

Oliveira has not returned to training as of yet but was all for making his return in January with the hopes of becoming a two-time lightweight champion after surrendering the title to Makhachev at UFC 280 last year. It sounds like the promotion’s most prolific finisher will still get his opportunity, but he’ll have to wait just a little bit longer to try and cash in on the long-awaited rematch.

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You’ll see the Charles you always see, always going forward, always going for the submission, for the knockout, going for the win,” Oliveira said backstage following the UFC’s return to Sao Paulo on Saturday. “I want to be champion. I want to be the next champion. That’s what I want.”