UFC president Dana White told reporters on “Fight Island” that his matchmaking team is working on securing big fights for both Islam Makhachev and Khamzat Chimaev as he looks to stack the deck ahead of the final months of 2020.
Makhachev was due to face former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos on “UFC Fight Island” next weekend at UFC 254, but after the Brazilian tested positive for COVID-19, the rising Russian lightweight contender has been left without a fight.
And, even though there is a spare lightweight – former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler – in Abu Dhabi, White said the promotion isn’t interested in matching Makhachev and Chandler in what would have been a dynamite matchup at 155 pounds.
Chandler recently signed for the UFC after a long tenure with Bellator that saw him become a three-time lightweight world champion. Now he’s a UFC fighter, and his first assignment is to be the “backup fighter” for the Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje title fight at UFC 254 next weekend.
It means Chandler has been through a training camp and will make weight next Friday ahead of fight night, but will only step into the octagon if something goes wrong with either Khabib or Gaethje before fight night.
Despite that, White told reporters, including RT Sport, that the UFC wasn’t considering the option of matching Chandler and Makhachev next weekend to give the American a guaranteed fight, while keeping Makhachev on the card.
“No. Michael Chandler’s here for the other fight,” he said.
“That’s what he’s here to do, that’s what he’s focused on. If anything bad were to happen, he will fight Gaethje or Khabib. That’s it. That’s all that kid has to worry about. We’ll get him a fight when this is over, and we’re working on a fight for Islam right now, too.”
White was also asked about the situation with Chechen-born Swedish fighter Khamzat Chimaev, who is on “UFC Fight Island” and looking to land a fight. However, White said the UFC is still working on it, as they have so far been unable to lock down an opponent for the undefeated newcomer.
“We’re working on it,” he said.
“He’s been a hard guy to get an opponent for, so we’re all over it. We’ll have something done for him. I was hoping it would be done yesterday or today, but it’s not, so we’ll get it done.”
White also said Chimaev was unconcerned whether the UFC books him in his natural weight class of welterweight, or 15 pounds heavier, at middleweight.
“He doesn’t give a sh*t,” White stated.
“First guy that raises his hand and says he wants to fight him, he’s in, at any weight.”