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Good luck trying to get to the bottom of why Islam Makhachev and Rafael dos Anjos didn’t fight at UFC 272 on Saturday.
The opportunity certainly was there last week after news broke Monday that Rafael Fiziev was forced to withdraw from the co-main event because of COVID-19. In response, Makhachev – who’s three previous bookings with dos Anjos have been canceled for various reasons – publicly volunteered to step in on five days’ notice despite beating Bobby Green just 48 hours prior at UFC Fight Night 202.
This is where the details get murky.
Depending on who you ask, the blame for Makhachev vs. dos Anjos not being made shifts between the UFC and Makhachev himself. UFC president Dana White said this past Saturday, after dos Anjos dominated short-notice replacement Renato Moicano, that Makhachev turned down the fight. Dos Anjos said Monday on “The MMA Hour” that the reason was because the UFC wouldn’t pay Makhachev $1 million as requested, something Makhachev denied in a subsequent interview with ESPN.
Makhachev is adamant about one thing: It was he who asked his manager, Ali Abdelaziz of Dominance MMA, to call the UFC about the fight, not the other way around, after finding out Fiziev was out.
“‘Hey, Ali, I saw some news,’” Makhachev recalled saying. “‘Please call UFC and say I’m ready for take this fight.’”
What happened after that is anyone’s guess.
Winner of 10 fights in a row, Makhachev (22-1 MMA, 11-1 UFC) seemingly was in line for a lightweight title shot after finishing Green in the first round. So why, despite being on vacation in California, would he risk his title shot by fighting a second time in one week?
“I just want to help UFC, for the fans, for everybody, because this is a pay-per-view show, big show.” Makhachev said. “I just asked for very small condition, but UFC say no, and that’s it.”
Makhachev did publicly ask for the fight to take place at welterweight, which dos Anjos said he accepted (“called his bluff”). What the “very small condition” was remains a mystery since Makhachev wouldn’t elaborate.
“But anyway, you know, I sit and watched this fight. Dos Anjos not my level of fighter. What can he give me?” Makhachev said. “If I beat him, people will be talking like this is old man, he’s not from top five, and that’s it. Now Dana say I have to fight (Beneil) Dariush. I have no problem fighting him, but who has to fight for the title next?”
At the end of the day, Makhachev says he’s at a loss as to why White claims he turned down the fight with dos Anjos at UFC 272.
“I don’t know. It’s OK. I don’t know,” Makhachev said. “He can say whatever he wants, but it doesn’t matter. I’m going to fight anyone because I’m going to be champion and fight all these guys in top 10, beat all these guys.”
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