UFC rival issues claim about Russian champion Makhachev


Arman Tsarukyan is considered by many to have been Islam Makhachev’s toughest recent test

UFC star Arman Tsarukyan has asserted that he is the man to dethrone reigning lightweight champion Islam Makhachev.

Armenian-Russian Tsarukyan plans on moving one step closer towards his goal this weekend, when he faces Russia’s Damir Ismagulov in a keenly anticipated showdown in Las Vegas.

Tsarukyan is widely considered to have been Dagestani star Makhachev’s toughest test in the UFC in recent years (save for the flash knockout Makhachev suffered in just his second UFC test seven years ago), when they met in a high-level back-and-forth battle in St Petersburg in April 2019.

The performance was made all the more impressive by the fact that the fight was Tsarukyan’s first in the UFC.

And while it was Makhachev who earned the nod from the judges on that occasion, speaking to the media in Las Vegas ahead of his clash with the 24-1 Orenburg native Ismagulov, Tsarukyan was adamant that a rematch with the seemingly untouchable Makhachev would produce a different outcome second time around.

Islam is on a different level,” said Tsarukyan of the 155lbs champion, who earned the world title with a second-round submission of Charles Oliveira in October in what was his 11th straight win.

His wrestling is good, his striking is good.”

But these are credentials also owned by the 26-year-old Tsarukyan, and he suggested that his recent improvements have made him a far sterner challenge than he was when he walked to the cage against Makhachev in Russia three years ago.

I know one guy who can beat him: it’s me.”

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But for that to come to pass, first comes the heavy lifting.

Tsarukyan was edged out in his most recent bout against the teak-tough Pole Mateusz Gamrot in June, a result which snapped a five-fight winning streak, and Tsarukyan knows that he must shine under the bright lights against Ismagulov – a fighter with one of the most impressive records on the roster.

If I’m going to beat Damir and some of the top five, the UFC is going to give me that opportunity (against Makhachev), because it was my debut, and I gave him the toughest fight in his career,” he said.

The gold belt draped over Makhachev’s shoulder has also affixed a target to his back, and you can add Tsarukyan’s name to the extended list of fighters awaiting an opportunity against the division’s best fighter.

Ismagulov, though, is in a prime role to play the spoiler – and when the dust settles on Sunday may well have established his own credentials in making a run at the title.

But for Tsarukyan’s dream to become reality, he can’t afford a single slip-up after his loss to Gamrot. Then, and only then, comes a shot at redemption.

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