UFC president Dana White appears to be leaning toward rebooking a rematch between lightweight champion Islam Makhachev and Charles Oliveira next rather than a fresh matchup between Makhachev and Justin Gaethje.
“You gotta give (the next title shot) to Oliveira,” White said Saturday at the UFC 294 postfight press conference, according to MMA Fighting. “Oliveira was ready to go; unfortunately, got cut … I think you give it to Oliveira.
“But again, these are all questions that I really can’t answer right now. When we get home, we’ll figure this stuff out and see what’s next for everybody.”
Makhachev knocked out featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski in the first round of Saturday’s main event to record his second 155-pound title defense. The Dagestani fighter was originally scheduled to meet Oliveira for the second time, but an injury forced Oliveira out of the contest early last week.
Ahead of UFC 294, Makhachev said he wanted Oliveira and Gaethje to square off – in a rematch – to determine the No. 1 contender. Makhachev’s manager Ali Abdelaziz said Gaethje, whom he also represents, should get the next title shot outright.
After the win over Volkanovski, Makhachev didn’t seem overly invested in choosing his next opponent.
“It’s not my job,” Makhachev said, per MMA Fighting. “Dana has to work on this. I just will sign the contract. Just send me the name. My opinion, I feel like already I have two opponents. Charles, OK, I will beat Charles. Who’s going to be next? Gaethje? He will wait – I don’t think it’s a good idea. But it is what it is. If they say Charles, OK. If they say Gaethje, it will be OK. Doesn’t matter.”
Oliveira, a former 155-pound champion, said earlier this week that he wants to either challenge for the title or face UFC star Conor McGregor in his return from injury.
Gaethje, who’s coming off a knockout win over Dustin Poirier in July to capture the mythical BMF title, said Saturday he believes he’s earned the right to face Makhachev next.
Gaethje is ranked No. 2 in the lightweight division, just below Makhachev and Oliveira.
“(Oliveira) already lost to Makhachev,” Gaethje told ESPN’s Megan Olivi. “I have not fought Makhachev. It’s a fresh matchup, a new matchup. And I think that’s what the fans are looking for. I think (Makhachev) would’ve dominated Oliveira just the same.
“Oliveira beat me, (but) MMA math doesn’t work. I’ve said (Makhachev is) not Khabib (Nurmagomedov), but I think he might be. So I just want to go out there and figure it out.”