Rising UFC lightweight contender Islam Makhachev has responded to being called out by Kevin Lee, and admitted he’d be interested in facing Conor McGregor, who he says isn’t as good as he once was.
Chatting to RT Sport while serving his guest fighter duties ahead of UFC Moscow this weekend, Makhachev said he would love to face off against Conor McGregor, and suggested the Irishman might be past his best as a force in the UFC.
“Of course I am (interested). Even heavyweights are talking about fighting McGregor!” he said.
“I’m interested in him too, because he is a good fighter and you can make a name for yourself fighting him and make some good money. But he is on a serious bender right now, and I don’t think he is as good as he used to be.”
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Makhachev said he admired his friend and teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov for his restraint in the face of McGregor’s jibes ahead of their clash at UFC 229 but now, following Khabib’s dominant victory over the Irishman in Las Vegas, he admitted the Dubliner’s words don’t carry the same venom any more.
“It bothered me a bit when he was talking trash before his fight with Khabib,” he admitted.
“Now he has taken a beating and I realize that he is talking just to stay relevant. We’ve seen him talking a lot before he fought Khabib but that was just words and nothing behind them.
“(Khabib) shares my point of view that Conor has already taken a beating, so it makes no sense to pay attention to what he’s saying. I was watching their first presser and there were moments when I thought I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself if I were in Khabib’s place.”
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And, following Kevin Lee’s recent callout of the Dagestani star, Makhachev said he’d be more than happy to take “The Motown Phenom”, and expressed his frustration at being called out by the American previously only for Lee to take his career in a different direction with a different opponent.
“I’m interested in this fight any time, anywhere,” he said.
“Even if UFC asks me to wait 3-4 months to give him some rest after his previous fight – I’m ready. If they give me a contract, I’ll sign it. I don’t care where, I’m ready to fight this guy.”
Makhachev said he has been frustrated by Lee’s callout antics in the past, and said as a result he’d accept the fight wherever in the world the UFC wanted to stage it.
“He called me out so many times, but then accepted other fights after that,” he explained.
“He was talking about me after his previous fight and then a couple of days after he said in one of his interviews that he is not interested in fighting me. I don’t understand him.
“I’m ready to fight him anywhere. I don’t like fighting in Russia because of the level of responsibility. But with him I’m ready to fight in America, in Russia, in Australia, in Brazil – anywhere.”
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And Makhachev, who said he wouldn’t challenge for the title all the while Khabib ruled the division, said he wanted to make sure he was in pole position to challenge for the belt once his teammate decides to hang up his gloves.
“It would be perfect if I get a title shot right after Khabib’s retirement,” he said.
“In any case, I’m going to reach that belt no matter how hard it will be. I have to finish what I started out to do.”