Islam Makhachev admits pressure, but grateful for huge support at UFC 242

ABU DHABI – Russian star Islam Makhachev says he plans on emulating his friend and teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov and holding the UFC lightweight title, but admits he’ll wait patiently for his time to come.

Makhachev defeated Davi Ramos by unanimous decision at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi and was honored by his UFC champion teammate at the post-fight press conference as Nurmagomedov placed his UFC belt on the dais next to him, saying he’d hold the title one day in the future.

The 27-year-old is keen to follow in his teammate’s footsteps and move as close as possible to the top of the division, and explained his callout of the fight that followed his on the card, the co-main event clash between Edson Barboza and Paul Felder.

Felder took the split-decision victory to push himself closer to a 155-pound title shot, but Makhachev said he would love to face “The Irish Dragon” and prove that he too belongs among the division’s elite.

“I just saw the last round,” he said. “Somebody said it was a very close decision, but someone in the locker room said Barboza won this fight. But I don’t care who won, I want a fight with Felder because he’s in the Top 10 now and because he’s a very strong opponent, a strong fighter. I just want to fight with somebody in the Top 10.”

While he waits for his next assignment, Makhachev can sit back and enjoy the memory of a whirlwind week in Abu Dhabi that saw him receive some of the strongest support of any fighter at UFC 242, thanks to an army of fans who traveled to watch him compete.

“I feel great because a lot of people came to see me in Abu Dhabi, a lot of people from Russia, from Dagestan, my family, my friends,” he said.

“This is a little bit of pressure for me, but this is support. When I fought last time in St. Petersburg it was the same thing. When I fight in Abu Dhabi and Russia I feel great because I feel this support. When I fight in the USA everybody supports my opponent. But this is crazy when the whole arena supports you. I just want to say thank you to everybody.”

As for the lightweight championship belt his friend had placed next to him, Makhachev said he definitely wants to get his hands on it for himself, but will wait for Nurmagomedov to relinquish it first.

“I’m really waiting (for) when he retires,” he said. “I want to fight for this belt – it’s my dream.”

 

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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