Islam Makhachev is set to face Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284 in Perth, Australia, this weekend, but the lightweight champion has bigger plans in mind.
In a recent interview with Submission Radio, Makhachev’s coach Javier Mendez revealed that the newly-crowned lightweight champ intends to move up to the welterweight division after clearing out the lightweight division.
When asked if Makhachev had ambitions beyond just competing at 155 pounds, Mendez said, “I a hundred percent see that. And the reason why I see that is because Islam wishes that. And when he wishes that, he’s gonna will it to happen. So, he’s gonna train, he’s gonna clear out the division like he wants to do, and then he is gonna go for the welterweight title, and whoever that person at that particular time is gonna be, I feel he’s gonna beat.”
Makhachev clearly isn’t satisfied with just sticking around in the lightweight division and defending his title; he wants to make a lasting impact in the UFC, and his coach believes that he has the talent and the drive to do just that. It’s a noticeable difference from the career arc of former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who never looked toward competing at welterweight or middleweight.
According to Mendez, Makhachev shared his plans with him shortly after winning his title. “This was shortly after, I don’t remember exactly, but after he won the title he was like, yeah, what do you think? I said, yeah, and it’s just like with Khabib, I never heard Khabib talk anything about other than lightweight. That’s it. Khabib never said welterweight, middleweight. But in my eyes, what I’ve seen in my eyes in the gym for all the years I’ve had Khabib, Khabib could’ve been the lightweight, the welterweight and the middleweight champion in my eyes,” added Mendez.
Despite his departure from coaching, Khabib Nurmagomedov still remains an integral part of the team, as Mendez revealed that he is still in contact with Makhachev and the rest of the team. Mendez said, “He just wants to spend time with his family. You know, he’s been calling. Yeah, he’s been calling FaceTime. He’ll call me, he’ll text, Islam will call. Actually, those guys don’t really like texting. It’s FaceTime. They like facetime-ing. So, I FaceTime him. I send them videos of what’s going on, and he gives me his opinions and he’ll talk to Islam, and him and I will discuss, ‘hey, can you talk to Islam? Can you do this? Of course, course coach’.
“He’s already ahead of me. He’s such a good coach that he’s already doing all the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 steps to get Islam mentally prepared. But the great thing about Islam is he’s very low-maintenance. Almost zero maintenance. He knows everything. It’s like DC said, Khabib looks like his controllers. Like, Islam just goes into, you know, it’s amazing, it’s amazing how he can just go into it. He knows what to do. You don’t have to tell him more than one time.”
While Makhachev has his sights set on the welterweight division in the future, one potential match-up that won’t be happening, according to Mendez, is against Khamzat Chimaev. Mendez said, “I think if that fight happened to be a dream fight, but I kind of look at Khamzat, to be honest with you, as being the 185-pound champ. Cause I see him as unstoppable at 185. I really do. I see this guy at 185, I see him being a champion. So, I don’t ever see him and Islam, in my eyes, ever crossing, because I think Khamzat’s gonna rule the 185-pound division.”
With his clear vision of where he wants to go and his unwavering determination, Makhachev has the potential to go and win a second title one day in the future — just as Alexander Volkanovski will attempt to do this weekend at UFC 284.
Don’t miss out on the highly-anticipated Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski fight at UFC 284 this Saturday, Feb. 11. Order the PPV now to prepare for an exciting night of MMA action.