Islam Makhachev expected to face Beneil Dariush on Saturday night in a potential lightweight championship eliminator. Instead, he’ll take on unranked Bobby Green, who took the first on short notice – and a quick turnaround – for the main event of UFC Fight Night 202.
Dariush dropped out of the fight earlier this week after suffering an injury during sparring.
Green steps up at last minute to fight Makhachev
That left the No. 4 ranked Makhachev (21-1) scrambling for an opponent in an important, high-profile fight for the rising star. Yet he said nobody on the UFC’s ranking list would agree to fight him on short notice.
“All these guys from top 10, they talk too much, and that’s it because without rankings we have many good fighters, and it’s very hard to jump to top 15,” Makhachev said on ESPN’s DC& RC. “We have to change all these old people from top 15 and very soon we’re gonna change the king in 155.”
Green (29-12-1) was harsh in his own criticism of the fighters who turned down the opportunity. He accepted the fight less than a week out, and faces a two-week turnaround after fighting Nasrat Haqparast on Feb. 12.
“I know already, the top-10 guys…all those motherf***ers got the call first,” Green said on The MMA Hour. “They want to wait and pick their turns. ‘No, it’s not good enough. No, I need more time. No, I only want to fight somebody ahead of me, but then I want it to be with the right camp and I want it to be all the right situations.’ All those guys play this like this weird game.”
Sportsbooks predicting one-sided bout
Green has fought in the UFC since 2013. He has enjoyed ups and downs, never quite reaching true contender status, but always remaining a relevant name. Only recently has he gained in popularity, something he is relishing at age 35 as he enters his first UFC main event.
“I don’t know where all these fans are coming from,” Green told ESPN. “Some people have told me it’s the positivity thing I’ve had going, in all my little interviews and what I say after the fights. I’ve just been me. If they gravitate to it, cool.”
While the saga of how Green got into the bout – which will now be a catchweight contest at 160 pounds – has dominated the talk leading into Saturday night, there’s an actual fight to talk about as well. Makhachev comes into the fight as an overwhelming -900 favorite against Green (+610), according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
While Green has always been a solid, confident fighter, Makhachev appears to be on a different level. Combine that with Green’s lack of preparation, and the Russian enters the Octagon as a deserving favorite.
For Makhachev, a win would mean 10 straight victories and a potential title shot, which means he can’t take Green lightly on Saturday.
“I really believe this is key for title fight,” Makhachev told reporters. “I think Oliveira is going to beat Justin Gaethje, and 11-win streak vs 10-win streak, this is going to be a big fight for all MMA fans.”