Arman Tsarukyan was nervous about UFC future after Islam Makhachev loss

Arman Tsarukyan feared he could be on the chopping block after he lost his UFC debut.

Tsarukyan (21-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) stepped in on short notice to face none other than current UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC) in April 2019. Tsarukyan put up a valiant effort, but fell short in a unanimous decision loss.

He then drew another high-level grappler in Olivier Aubin-Mercier, and that’s when the fear kicked in. A young Tsarukyan saw it as a must-win fight that his UFC career depended on.

“My hardest fight in the UFC was my second one (vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier),” Tsarukyan told Red Corner MMA. “I lost to Islam and flew to Canada with no coaches. I felt nervous as I thought that if I’d lost, they would’ve removed me from the UFC – 0-2 in the UFC and my career is over. So I was scared of embarrassing myself.”

Tsarukyan ended up notching the win in another hard-fought battle. But Tsarukyan thinks the nature in which he won the fight didn’t make him the promotion’s favorite prospect.

“I won the first round, and the second round was really close, and it was in Canada,” Tsarukyan said. “So I am sitting in my corner and saying to myself, ‘If I lose the third one, it’s over for me.’ I managed to win the fight, although the UFC didn’t like the way I got the win.

“And for a couple of years, they didn’t treat me so well. I was not getting as many fights as I wanted. But then they realized my true potential. I was on a five-fight winning streak and they saw some champion material in me, and now I’m in the position I have always wanted to be.”

Tsarukyan is 8-1 since losing to Makhachev and on the cusp of title contention. He meets former champion Charles Oliveira (34-9 MMA, 22-9 UFC) at UFC 300 on April 13 – a No. 1 contender bout according to UFC CEO Dana White.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 300.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie