Khabib Nurmagomedov confused by the UFC’s recent handling of the lightweight division: ‘It makes no sense’


Khabib Nurmagomedov does not understand the UFC’s handling of the lightweight division as of late.

After laying down the lightweight title and walking away from the sport in 2020, Nurmagomedov helped his friend and protege Islam Makhachev climb to the top of the division, claiming the 155-pound crown for himself. Since then, the ‘Dagestani Destroyer’ has defended the belt twice, both against former featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski.

Last defending the title in October, many assumed that Makhachev would return in the spring for a showdown with Justin Gaethje. However, those plans were seemingly scrapped — or at the very least put on hold — when the promotion announced that ‘The Highlight’ would battle Max Holloway in a BMF superfight at UFC 300.

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As exciting as that sounds, Gaethje’s pairing with Holloway has left Makhachev in limbo — a decision that has Khabib Nurmagomedov scratching his head in confusion.

“All respect for Max Holloway, but I don’t know, and I don’t understand why UFC make this fight,” Nurmagomedov told MMA Junkie following an appearance for Class A Events. “Justin Gaethje vs. Max Holloway: It makes no sense – (that’s) my opinion. My opinion, Holloway is supposed to fight with (Ilia) Topuria next, maybe September. Justin Gaethje is supposed to fight with Islam in May or June, and Tsarukyan vs. Oliveira, they fight in April. Whoever wins that (should be fighting) the winner of Islam vs. Justin Gaethje.

“Now, Topuria will fight with who? Movsar (Evloev) is the best option. I don’t know if Dana White will give him (a title shot). My opinion, he deserves this. I don’t understand. It makes no sense why they don’t give Islam (a fight with) Justin Gaethje, why they make him fight vs. Holloway.”

UFC CEO Dana White had previously stated that Makhachev was working through an injury, prompting the promotion to book Gaethje vs. Holloway and Charles Oliveira vs. Arman Tsarukyan at the landmark event on April 13.

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However, Islam Makhachev has remained adamant that he is ready to defend his title, leading to a stalemate with no clear path forward.

“I don’t understand what UFC have planned,” Nurmagomedov said. “But Islam ready to fight with anyone.”