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Khabib’s protégée Islam Makhachev receives hero’s welcome in Dagestan

The newly crowned UFC lightweight champion defeated Charles Oliveira to win the title at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi last weekend.

After being crowned lightweight champion at UFC 280 last week, Islam Makhachev returned home to a hero’s welcome in his native Dagestan.

Footage showed Makhachev arriving at the airport terminal, where he was greeted by Sergey Melikov, the Russian politician who serves as the Head of the Republic of Dagestan. The fighter also met with the regional Minister of Sports Saida Zahidova.

Following a photo-op with the politicians, the UFC champion was eventually led outside where a throng of supporters celebrated his return.

“I’d like to thank everybody who came here to greet and support me,” Makhachev said as he addressed the crowd. “Later, we will eat together. There, we can talk and take pictures.”

Speaking to the media at a dinner banquet in his honor, Makhachev revealed that he plans to take a few weeks of to rest following a grueling training camp. He also confirmed that he plans to face UFC featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284 in Perth, Australia, with the intention of becoming the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

“I think my goal right now is to be the best fighter in the world,” Makhachev said.

Makhachev’s victory comes less than a month after thousands of demonstrators gathered across Dagestan to protest the “partial mobilization” for Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Videos showed demonstrators confronting law enforcement and brawling with officials. In one video, a security officer can be seen fleeing from a group of protesters as they attempt to trip him up. More than 120 demonstrators were arrested Sunday.