Islam Makhachev, the reigning lightweight champion, has cast a doubt over Conor McGregor securing a legitimate title shot upon his return. The latter, once a holder of Ultimate Fighting Championship’s lightweight and featherweight titles, has been out of the game since 2021 due to a broken leg sustained during his trilogy clash with Dustin Poirier. The Irish star did, however, recently rejoin the UFC’s drug-testing pool, following months of repartee with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which could make his return possible as early as next April.
Despite having lost three of his last four matches, McGregor still remains a popular call-out for elite lightweight contenders. This list includes former champions like Charles Oliveira. Makhachev, however, expressed his disinterest in fighting McGregor unless “Notorious” merits a title shot, something Makhachev is skeptical about happening.
Makhachev anticipates a challenging climb up the rankings for McGregor, who is currently expected to fight Michael Chandler on his much-anticipated return. In a recent interview posted on the Instagram account za.khabiba, the 32-year-old stated, “If he deserves it, then yes. If he deserves it, he will come back, will win 3-4 fights. And in general, if the UFC leadership offers, I will not miss the fight definitely because I don’t think he deserves it. I don’t even think he deserves it because I don’t believe that he will come back to the winning streak or be able to beat the real contenders and become the number one contender.”
Makhachev’s conversations about a potential fight against McGregor were sparked during a discussion about Francis Ngannou’s near-upset boxing match against Tyson Fury in Riyadh. Makhachev opined that Fury made boxers look bad, while Ngannou demonstrated the true potential of an MMA fighter’s switch to the sweet science. He added, “Why not? I would be happy to try. In the last fight Ngannou showed what level a professional fighter can reach by switching to boxing. …Fury showed boxing in a bad face. And now the conversations of boxers and fighters are relevant.”