Newly crowned UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev’s coach Javier Mendez has always been happy to tell anyone who will listen how good his pupil is, but even so he’s still been left feeling uncomfortable about how fast the star has suddenly risen up the pound-for-pound rankings.
Makhachev’s win over Charles Oliveira to claim the title at UFC 280 last month saw him go from not even featuring on the pound-for-pound list to now featuring at No.2, leap-frogging others like Israel Adesanya, Kamaru Usman, Francis Ngannou and Leon Edwards, and Mendez says it’s too much too soon in his opinion.
“Look, you know this just as much as I do, Islam went to No. 2 spot pound-for-pound in the UFC in just one fight? How?,” Mendez told MMA Junkie. “I know he’s good, and I believe he’s No. 1. I do believe that. But to give him that spot of No. 2 pound-for-pound in just one fight, no. I know in my heart with time he’ll be No. 1. Simple as that. He’s going to be No. 1. But they gave him this just because of one fight.
“No, I don’t like that. It was done too quickly.”
To be fair, the 31-year-old Makhachev has now won 11-fights in a row, but given that, Oliveira aside, he’s only beaten one other fighter in the lightweight top 10 (Arman Tsarukyan, who is ranked No.9).
With that in mind there is a solid case to be made that even though he’s clearly a special talent, that he does need to clear out some more of the division’s leading contenders like Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje, Beneil Dariush, Michael Chandler and Rafael Fiziev to warrant stepping above the likes of Usman and Adesanya, who may have lost list time out, but still have remarkably strong resumes.
However, it’s unlikely that Makhachev’s position will change, and in fact it might not be long before he takes the No.1 spot as he’s going up against the man in that spot, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski next at UFC 284 in February, and he’s currently the favorite to win that superfight.