Based on Javier Mendez’s recommendations, Islam Makhachev would defend his UFC lightweight title against Beneil Dariush.
Only minutes after submitting Charles Oliveira in the second round at UFC 280 on Saturday, Makhachev already had his sights set on his first defense, which appears to be against UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. In his post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White all but confirmed the champion vs. champion bout, saying, “it looks like Volkanovski is next.”
Mendez told Submission Radio that he has no problem with Makhachev facing Volkanovski, but that another fighter deserves a shot at his new title more. The trainer at the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) cheered on Dariush after he won a fight against Mateusz Gamrot, who was widely regarded as a possible No. 1 contender.
“Now who is actually, in my opinion, more deserving from a true professional sport-sport? But this not a true sport, this is an entertainment-sport,” said Mendez.
“So, from a true sport, Dariush, he deserves it. He 100 percent deserves the next shot. But because this is an entertainment sport, the fans want to see Alex and Islam go for it because (it’s) the pound-for-pound king vs. the new king in the lightweight division.
“Let’s see if the pound-for-pound king can take that lightweight title,” added Mendez.
“Which, hey, he’s the pound-for-pound for a reason, right? He’s cleared out his division and he keeps getting better and better. And what better way to have two guys that are actually going to be professional all the way through. They got a great camp. I’ve spoke nothing but highly about who they are as a camp and how they are as a team. And I still stick by what I say. I think they’re a great, great camp over there and they’re meeting another great camp. Let’s see how we can put it together and throw on a great fight for the fans.”
It is possible that Dariush may have to face one more contender after his bout with Volkanovski, which is the next in line for the opportunity to compete for the championship. On the other hand, based on what Mendez witnessed on Saturday, the Kings MMA product probably won’t have to.
“Beneil really, really, really impressed me,” said Mendez.
“I said, ‘Wow!’ I didn’t know the other guy. I’ve never seen the other guy at all, not one time. So I asked some of the guys around and I go, ‘Hey, what do you think?’ And they go, ‘Oh, Beneil can’t wrestle with this guy. This guy’s too good a wrestler. He’s something European ADCC champ and he’s this champion. And I went, ‘Oh, wow.’ Then I saw Beneil and how great he performed and I saw what a champion heart he had and I said, ‘There’s your answer right there. There’s your next challenger.’”
At UFC Vegas 49 in February, Makhachev was scheduled to fight Dariush, however Dariush had to pull out due to an ankle injury. If Makhachev defeats Volkanovski, he and Darisuh might be able to fight in the same Octagon in 2023