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Islam Makhachev would love to fight Justin Gaethje: ‘He’s free right now, why not?’

“It’s possible. He’s free right now. Why not? I’d love to fight him.”

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Islam Makhachev would like a serious step-up in competition following his dominant submission victory over Drew Dober at UFC 259, claiming that he would love to fight Justin Gaethje, who is growing increasingly impatient with the UFC over the lack of available matchups.

Makhachev, who is considered by some to be the next Khabib Nurmagomedov, believes the UFC will pit him against Rafael dos Anjos next, but if, for whatever reason, that bout doesn’t come to fruition the No. 11-ranked lightweight would like to fight Gaethje.

“I don’t know what’s going on with the UFC matchmaking but I think that’s what will end up happening,” Makhachev said at an Eagle Fighting Championship event (translation via RT Sport). “Most of the top-10 fighters are busy but I’m 90 percent sure they’ll give me a top-10 guy…

“We know that Felder doesn’t want to fight often. He has other things going on with the UFC and isn’t eager to fight anymore. As far as Hooker, I saw that he recently came home. He was quarantined for a long time so I don’t think he’ll want to come back soon. He’ll probably want to rest after getting knocked out, so I think they’ll give me dos Anjos.”

“Yes, it’s possible. Justin and I know each other but it’s not like we’re friends,” Makhachev said of Gaethje. “It’s possible. He’s free right now. Why not? I’d love to fight him.”

Gaethje is looking to rebound from his submission loss to Khabib while Makhachev, who trains with the latter in Dagestan, is desperate to prove himself against a top-five/top-ten lightweight.

The 29-year-old, who is considered to be one of the most promising prospects in the division, is riding a seven-fight win streak with standout victories over Dober, Nik Lentz, and Gleison Tibau.