Khabib Nurmagomedov believes there is only one person deserving of the next lightweight title shot.
For many in the mixed martial arts world, that answer is Justin Gaethje who is coming off an emphatic war with Michael Chandler at UFC 268 this past weekend to earn the unanimous decision victory.
In the process, “The Highlight” also returned to the win column after his second-round submission defeat to Nurmagomedov in their title fight in October last year.
Gaethje already felt he should have fought for the vacant title after Nurmagomedov retired and has been campaigning for a title shot ever since UFC 268.
He even got into it with Daniel Cormier during UFC 267 as he felt the latter was hyping Islam Makhachev up too much as the next title challenger.
And after his win over Chandler, Gaethje believes it would be a major travesty if he didn’t fight for the belt next.
“The travesty to the integrity of the sport would be too great if I didn’t get a title shot now,” Gaethje told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. “Before, they could have done it but now? I would hope some journalist would make people answer some really hard questions if I didn’t get the shot.”
Khabib Nurmagomedov: You Had Your Chance
That snippet was shared on the ESPN MMA account on Instagram and prompted a pretty hostile response from Nurmagomedov who clearly feels Makhachev is next in line.
“In last 8 fight, you got finished 3 times Justin. You had an opportunity to become champion, but you fell asleep. Islam is on the 9 win streak, 3 fight in 2021 and all finishes. Just shut up and admit that Islam deserves this title shot, not you.”
Nurmagomedov is clearly biased towards his teammate and friend and while Makhachev has a very good case for getting at title shot, not many would complain if Gaethje ended up fighting the winner of Charles Oliveira vs. Dustin Poirier.
One thing is for sure — Ali Abdelaziz, who represents Makhachev, Nurmagomedov and Gaethje, is certainly in a precarious position.