27 Mar

Arman Tsarukyan believes lightweight champion Islam Makhachev will avoid title rematch after UFC 300

As lightweight contender Arman Tsarukyan prepares for his return at UFC 300 against former champion Charles Oliveira on April 13, the idea that he’s one step away from securing a rematch against Islam Makhachev remains on the front of his mine.

“It’s not a maybe, it’s 100%,” Tsarukyan told “Morning Kombat” this week. “After this fight, I’m going to be contender No. 1 for the title. That’s it.”

Tsarukyan (21-3) enters having won eight of his last nine bouts since a memorable UFC debut loss in 2019 in a competitive decision to Makhachev (25-1), some three years before the sport’s current pound-for-pound king went on to claim the vacant lightweight title from Oliveira at UFC 280.

It’s Tsarukyan’s most recent performances amid a three-fight win streak that began after his disputed 2022 decision defeat to Mateusz Gamrot that has everyone buzzing about the muscular native of Georgia, who proudly represents his Armenian culture. Tsarukyan has knocked out his last two opponents, including a brutal finish of Beneil Dariush in December to secure the Oliveira fight.

So, how does Tsaurkyan feel about Makhachev’s recent comments that his preference is to defend his title against former interim titleholder Dustin Poirier, who stopped red-hot contender Benoit Saint Denis at UFC 299 earlier this month?

“I feel like Islam wants to avoid us,” Tsarukyan said. “He feels like I’m going to win and, for him, it’s better to fight Poirier than me. I am more of a danger for him because I know wrestling. Maybe he can make more money with Dustin. It’s probably because of that, he’s more interested. Anyway, for me it doesn’t matter. I’m just focused on Charles Oliveira because he is one of the best in our division. I have to focus on him. This is the biggest fight for me.”

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Tsarukyan said that although he respects Poirier, his teammate at American Top Team in south Florida, he’s excited to see the division finally turn over to allow the next generation to take their shot.

“I was supporting Dustin Poirier [against Saint Denis,] I wanted him to win and I was super happy,” Tsaurkyan said. “But now, all the top five are still here and just me. I am one of the youngest and new ones because of [Michael] Chandler, Poirier, [Justin] Gaethje, Oliveira, Islam. The top five is still there but I’m there also. I want to change those names and want to become No. 1 and become champ.”

One thing Tsarukyan is most confident about is how much he has grown since the Makhachev loss, when the two took turns reversing position in a grappling showcase that ended in Makhachev winning by scores of 30-27 (twice) and 29-28.

“It [feels] like one year ago but it’s almost five years ago,” Tsarukyan said. “I was super young and it was my first fight [in the UFC]. I can’t wait to fight again with Islam Makhachev. Everybody knows it will be me or Oliveira that will fight Islam Makhachev next. It’s a No. 1 contender fight so definitely one of us will fight for the title.”

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