Can Makhachev surpass the Khabib legend?

Islam Makhachev will fight Alexander Volcano for the first time since his victory over Charles Oliveira last October for the lightweight title at UFC 284 in Australia this weekend. Fowski battles for the title (live at 2 a.m. Saturday, Sunday on RMC Sport 2). Could the Dagestanian one day surpass the stellar career of his good friend Khabib Nurmagomedov? Responsive element.

This time, he won’t be standing in his big friend’s corner. But he still whispered in her ear. Islam Makhachev became his coach after retiring in October 2020, weeks after the death of his father Abdulmanap, the pair’s previous coach, and Khabib Khabib Nurmagomedov did not accompany his old friend to Perth, Australia, where the new UFC lightweight champion defended his title for the first time since beating Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 in October , the opponent is Alexander Volkanovsky, the king of feathers is looking for a second gold belt. Khabib wanted to get out of his cage and take better care of his family and loved ones. But even without him around, “The Eagle” remains in the shadow of his heir.

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“He’s with me every day,” Makhachev explained to ESPN. Every morning, he would ask me about my weight, physical condition, and what I ate. He was more nervous than usual because he wasn’t there and he couldn’t see it all. But he will give me some good advice. ” Announcing the succession of Khabib, who announced on his retirement that his main goal was to lead him to this lightweight belt which he still wore at the time of his exit, Makhachev continued on the path trodden by his honored elder. By opening his arms in parallel. “I It’s the new Khabib, he said, smiling into the RMC Sport microphone. Khabib 2.0! “

What questions to ask. Can Makhachev sign a better career than his buddy and become the best Dagestan fighter in MMA history (and one of the best ever)? Can “student” be more than “master”, it must be in quotation marks, because the relationship between two people who grew up together-they are three years apart-doesn’t it just combine these two words? Fighting sambo (who would become world champion) and MMA, initiated by the Nurmagomedov family, those concerned refuse to enter the game of hypothetical comparisons. “I’m not thinking about that, trying to be better than him or anybody else. I’m just thinking about myself. I want to be the UFC champion and the best fighter in all categories in the world,” Makhachev said.

It’s too early today, and this question may finally become reasonable. The current UFC lightweight champion will not catch Nurmagomedov by a single point. Khabib left MMA with a perfect record, unbeaten at 29-0 and had buried Makhachev’s prospects back in 2015 after the only loss of his career (23-1) to Brazilian Adriano Martins at Dagestani Caused a TKO in the second fight in MMA. ‘UFC. If he does not lose until the end of his career, Makhachev will never be able to erase this 1 in the loss column. 1-0 Khabib. But for everyone else… Entering MMA’s dominant organization with a 16-0 record, Nurmagomedov won his 13 fights in the UFC before retiring. He has a string of 11 wins since the setback against Martins, and if he beats Volkanovski this weekend, his pal will be just one step closer to Khabib.

Given his age (31) and his desire to keep climbing the octagon, we can even imagine him going beyond it. With former middleweight champion Brazilian Anderson Silva set a historic record with 16 consecutive victories in the UFC. The argument will have big implications for Makhachev if he ends up at the top. If he wins over Volkanovski, he will be the pundits’ favorite opponent, and he will also beat the No. 1 UFC No. 1 in all categories, a chance that Khabib never had. If successful, Makhachev, who is currently ranked No. 2, will be at the top of his career.

It’s something Khabib has only achieved in the twilight of his career, a status he declared (hopefully fulfilled) on the microphone after his final bout with Justin Gaethje. Therefore, he won’t be in this place for long, while his partner can push things further. “I came to Australia to be the best boxer in all categories,” he confirmed. That way when people remember me, they won’t just say “UFC champion,” but “best boxer on earth.” This is every boxer’s dream. mine. I think I’m better than everyone else. ’ and concluded like an exclamation point: ‘If I’m in good shape and I have a good training camp, no one can beat me. (…) about 70kg, that’s my playground. Nobody can argue with me from another category. “

It is also possible that Makhachev could out-time Khabib for the title. Nurmagomedov’s dominance of the game in his final game in the cage sometimes made us forget that his dominance wasn’t that long. A lightweight champion after defeating Al Iaquinta in April 2018, Khabib has defended his belt “only” three times: Conor McGregor in October 2018, Dustin Poirier in September 2019 and Justin Gaethje in October 2020. All this brings his reign to 1077 days, the record in this category. If many imagine him ruling long after beating Oliveira, it’s a matter of quality and style, imagining Makhachev beating these 1077 days is no guarantee. First of all it is necessary to pass the Volkanovski barrier, which is not easy, the most important thing is to stay in this category. “I’ll probably continue to lose weight for lightweight,” he explained to RMC Sport, but it’s going to be complicated for my body. That’s why I want to go up.

After Volkanovski, Makhachev is already talking about defending the lightweight title against a bout between Oliveira and Benel Dariusz. In the short or medium term, his future should be in the upper welterweight tier. Along with declaring the idea of ​​being double-championships at the same time as Conor McGregor, Amanda Nunes, Daniel Cormier and Henry Cejudo have done in the past (which Volkanovski can do this weekend against Makhachev as well). “Moving up to the next category is not the same as defending your belt. It gives you a new purpose, a new motivation.” The dual title separates him from Khabib, who never wanted to try, and who has sometimes lost his way in his career. The end was blamed.

At the end of his career, Makhachev undoubtedly provided a more complete and varied style than Nurmagomedov. Shockingly, Islam seems to be a cut above Khabib, and the diversity of “play”. If he still signs KO/TKO in his career, including twice in the UFC… Like Makhachev, the former lightweight champion relies heavily on his suffocating fights to annihilate fights. So has his heir, something Volkanovsky has been trying to counter, but Makhachev’s threat appears to be broader. Going so far as to declare that he was going to knock out the Australian Featherweight Champion instead of bringing him to his knees. “Against Oliveira, I said I wanted to kill Oliveira because he had the most submissions in UFC history. That’s what I did. (…) Someone said Volkanovski was Best striker in the UFC, that’s why I want to beat him out.”

A man who declares he wants to face “anyone, anywhere” and accepts “all the opponents the UFC (him) offers” may never have the aura and popularity that Khabib has since his victory over superstar Conor McGregor. On his roster Counting “Notorious” on top will help bring him closer at that level, a grotesque prospect today but one that could grow if the Irishman beats Michael Chandler at the end of the show. ultimate warrior (The fight will be at lightweight) Because the UFC knows how much it will sell for the chance to give McGregor a new belt.

But no matter what happens, his legacy will not be that big in Dagestan, now “it’s more difficult for him to walk on the street”, but Nurmagomedov remains the absolute icon of the entire nation. Many will also say that Khabib accelerated his career. He won the title before facing any top 5 in his class, simply because he was Nurmagomedov’s successor and the UFC’s desire for a “new Khabib.” But facts will still be facts. Maybe they will agree with Papa Nurmagomedov. Khabib often explained that his father called Makhachev “the best in[their]room,” including his son. In a few years, if all goes well, the MMA world might recognize it.

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