Former undisputed UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov has had high praise for upcoming headlines, top-5 contenders, Beneil Dariush and teammate, Islam Makhachev — claiming that both of them are currently better than former interim lightweight titleholders, past-foes, Dustin Poirier, and Justin Gaethje.

Khabib, who officially announced his retirement from professional mixed martial arts 13 months ago following a title unification submission win against Gaethje, also officially vacated the lightweight crown in March — with Charles Oliveira scooping the title courtesy of a knockout win over Michael Chandler in May.

With Oliveira slated to make his first attempted defense of the lightweight crown next month to round out the pay-per-view portion of UFC 269, the Sao Paulo finisher meets with the aforenoted former interim gold holder, Poirier — who enters the title showdown off the back of a pair of 2021 victories over Conor McGregor. 

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With Poirier next in line for the title, the above mentioned, Gaethje managed to secure his spot as challenger in waiting off the back of his unanimous judging Fight of the Year contender opposite Chandler at the beginning of November at UFC 269.

Khabib Nurmagomedov claims both Islam Makhachev and Beneil Dariush are better than Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje

However, both Dariush and Makhachev have both staked their respective claims for shots at lightweight spoils in the midst of lengthy winning sprees. But one of the two will fall to the wayside come February next year — with the pair jotting their names to stand opposite each other on a February 26. UFC Fight Night headlining slot

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Providing his thoughts on the landscape of the lightweight title picture, Khabib claimed that while both Poirier and Gaethje were undeniable title challenger, in his opinion, both Dariush and Makhachev are better than them both.

Any of them, like Islam (Makhachev) and (Beneil) Dariush — they deserve to fight for the title, right now,” Khabib Nurmagomedov told ESPN MMA. “But, we have like, some big names on lightweight, like you know, you cannot say no for Dustin Poirier or Justin Gaethje. These two guys, they have very big name.

But like fighters, in my opinion, they better, like Dariush and Islam, they better than Dustin and Justin, it’s just my opinion, you know,” Khabib Nurmagomedov continued. “But, they have big-name — we know this game, and sometimes it’s not enough like. Nine win streak or seven win streak, it’s not enough to fight for the title, you know. Sometimes you have to build your name, you know.

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Khabib and Gaethje’s manager, Dominance MMA leader, Ali Abdelaziz recently claimed that is likely Gaethje will challenge for lightweight gold in May of next year following his Madison Square Garden victory over Chandler. And without getting too far ahead of the picture, the victor between Dariush and Makhachev would likely find themselves as the next challenger in waiting.