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Khabib Nurmagomedov says Islam Makhachev ‘needs at least five’ title defenses before he retires

“I think he needs at least five. Maybe six. That would be ideal.”

Khabib Nurmagomedov thinks Islam Makhachev will surpass him as the greatest UFC lightweight champion of all time, suggesting the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) standout will defend his title at least five times before retiring.

Nurmagomedov (29-0 MMA) expects his prized student to rule the lightweight throne for three years before the sport passes him by, admitting that ‘nobody’, not even the pride of Dagestan, ‘can stay on top forever’.

“I think he needs at least five,” Nurmagomedov told Red Corner MMA (h/t MMA Fighting’s Drake Riggs) in a recent interview. “Maybe six. That would be ideal. Six defenses, that’s six fights and three years. Then it’s possible that the sport leaves him because nobody can stay on top forever.

“The way the almighty created a man, he first becomes strong then weak. He’s young then he’s old. Knowing that, the goal is five-six defenses.”

Makhachev’s first title defense will come against reigning featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284 to determine the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. It will be his first title fight since winning the lightweight championship with a second-round submission victory over Charles Oliveira at UFC 280.

UFC 284: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski takes place on Feb. 12, 2023, at RAC Arena in Perth, Australia.