Lightweight champion Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC) is fresh off a head kick knockout of Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 294 last month and is looking to defend his title again in the first quarter of 2024.
Makhachev’s teammate Daniel Cormier suggested McGregor (22-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) next, dubbing it as a fight that “makes all the sense in the world.” While Mendez is not opposed to it, he doesn’t see a McGregor fight doing too much for Makhachev’s legacy.
“I see that as a fight that would be interesting for Islam because he gets to do what Khabib (Nurmagomedov) didn’t finish, I guess you could say,” Mendez said in an interview with Red Corner MMA. “He gets to come back and get on the same journey that Khabib did. It’s a great payday for Islam. I think it’s great if Islam wants it.
“If he doesn’t, then maybe going to the welterweight title is more appealing to him – to create a legacy that he wants, because beating Conor is not going to create the kind of legacy that Islam wants. Going after the welterweight title, that’s a legacy type moment. With Conor, it’s a money and it’s a hype thing, so I don’t know his thoughts on that. It’s never been brought up.”
McGregor, who’s expected to face Michael Chandler, is coming off back-to-back losses and hasn’t competed since breaking his leg in a TKO loss to Dustin Poirier in July 2021. Mendez doesn’t think McGregor would deserve a title shot upon his return but knows that isn’t how MMA typically works.
“In terms of matchmaking, I don’t know if you can say (it’s a good fight) from a real sport (perspective) – and this is not a real sport. This is entertainment first, because if it was a real sport, then Conor wouldn’t get the amount of opportunities he gets,” Mendez said. “So from a real sport (perspective), no, he needs to show that he’s worthy. But from an entertainment (aspect), yes, because he’s still the biggest name right now.”