Islam Makhachev outlines 2024 plan after Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira revelations

UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev has revealed that he hopes to fight twice this year, starting with a bout against Justin Gaethje in June.

Makhachev last fought in October, retaining his title against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski for the second time in eight months. Makhachev, who outpointed Volkanovski in February then knocked out the Australian in their rematch, was originally due to face Charles Oliveira on the latter occasion, but the Brazilian withdrew due to injury.

Makhachev vs Oliveira was itself due to be a rematch, 12 months after the Russian submitted the former champion to win the vacant lightweight belt. UFC president Dana White revealed this week that the plan was to rebook that match-up for some time in 2024, but Makhachev is suffering from an injury, leading to the announcement of a No 1 contender’s bout between Oliveira and Arman Tsarukyan.

However, the winner of that fight at UFC 300 in April looks set to challenge for the belt later in 2024, with Makhachev keen to defend the title before that, once he is healthy.

The 32-year-old tweeted on Wednesday (10 January): “June 8 UFC PPV [pay-per-view] vs Gaetje [sic], November UFC MSG vs Olivera/Arman, February 2025 vs Anybody Inshallah.”

“MSG” is a reference to New York City’s Madison Square Garden, where the UFC often holds pay-per-views in November. In the last two years, Makhachev has fought at the UFC’s annual October events in Abu Dhabi, continuing a trend started by his friend and coach Khabib Nurmagomedov – a lightweight great.

Gaethje, like Makhachev, is managed by Ali Abdelaziz, making a match-up between the lightweights highly likely. Gaethje is a former interim lightweight champion, who failed to unify the belts against Khabib in 2020 and lost a title fight versus Oliveira in 2022. However, the American fought and won twice in 2023, beating Rafael Fiziev in a slugfest in March and knocking out Dustin Poirier in July.

Poirier is another former interim champion, who – like Gaethje – lost a unification bout with Khabib before suffering a title-fight loss to Oliveira. The American has been booked against Benoit Saint-Denis at UFC 299 in March. That fight is likely affect the title picture at lightweight, though not as directly as Oliveira vs Tsarukyan.

Tsarukyan, like Oliveira, is a former opponent of Makhachev. The Armenian-Russian, 27, made his UFC debut against Makhachev in 2019 and lost a narrow decision.

Click here to subscribe to The Independent’s Sport YouTube channel for all the latest sports videos.