Last night at UFC Vegas 31, Islam Makhachev did just what his cornerman Khabib Nurmagomedov wanted him to do—dominate and finish Thiago Moises in his first ever UFC main event.
And now the former UFC lightweight champion has his sights set on a new target for Makhachev, and an ambitious one at that. Backstage at UFC Vegas 31 ‘The Eagle’ spoke to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto and explained his plan for getting Makhachev a Fighter of the Year award for 2021.
Khabib Nurmagomedov tells me the plan is for Islam Makhachev to get one more fight near the end of the year, get a finish, and be named Fighter of the Year. He's 2-0 with two finishes so far. He'd have to beat out some tough competition. Usman, Moreno, Ngannou are tops, I'd say.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) July 18, 2021
“Khabib Nurmagomedov tells me the plan is for Islam Makhachev to get one more fight near the end of the year,” wrote Okamoto, who added that should Makhachev get a finish in that fight Nurmagomedov believes his friend would have done enough to scoop the year-end award.
Makhachev currently has two finishes in two fights this year, including last night’s rear naked choke on Moises and a guillotine choke on Drew Dober.
As Okamoto noted, even if that Nurmagomedov’s criteria is met, Makhachev still faces stiff competition for the title of Fighter of the Year.
When the UFC released their mid-year awards, UFC welterweight Kamaru Usman was announced as their top fighter. ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ has two title defenses in 2021 including a thunderous KO of Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261.
Along with Usman, Francis Ngannou (who won the UFC heavyweight title in March), Charles Oliveira (who won the UFC lightweight belt in May), Max Holloway and Beneil Dariush were the top vote getters for that award.
Those votes took place before Dustin Poirier beat Conor McGregor for a second time in 2021, so you can expect ‘The Diamond’ to feature in any Fighter of the Year conversations when all is said and done.
For Makhachev to realistically stand a chance of being honoured as the best fighter for this year, he’d need some of his post-fight callouts to pan out. Since beating Moises, Makhachev has called for contests with Michael Chandler, Rafael dos Anjos and Tony Ferguson.