Everyone’s favorite blood broker, Rafael Fiziev is out of Saturday night’s Co-Main Event against former UFC Champion Rafael dos Anjos, due to being sick with COVID-19, as reported by Ariel Helwani live on The MMA Hour yesterday during his interview with Dos Anjos, who was visibly devastated. This fight had already been rescheduled from two weeks ago due to Fiziev suffering from visa issues.
In a shocking contrast to last week, when only Bobby ‘King’ Green would rise to challenge Islam Makhachev when Beneil Dariush was forced to withdraw due to a broken ankle, it seemed like half the roster was coming out to try and fight RDA. Kevin Holland offered to fight at 170, about an hour after he’s scheduled to fight Alex ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira, there were whispers of Max Holloway making the flight from Hawaii, Terrence McKinney, fresh off a R1 Sub over Farez Ziam on Saturday has repeatedly said that he’s ready to go, and as if anyone needed a reminder of how much of a massive stud he is, Paul Felder was back on the stationary bike, asking “How many days this time?”
And then there was Islam himself, who claimed that he was agreeable to fight at 170 via Twitter. Islam Makhachev, prized pupil of Abulmanap and Khabib Nurmagomedov, Heir Apparent, willing to put everything on the line to make the fight that has been scheduled three times, most recently at UFC 267, when Dan Hooker stepped in on four weeks notice.
Lets think about that for a second. Islam Makhachev, who’s biggest complaint anyone can levy against him is the four fights he’s pulled out of (and popping for meldonium in 2016), is willing to step in on short notice and save the Co-Main Event of the first non-Title PPV that didn’t involve the name McGregor or Diaz in recent memory against an old man in a sport where men die young? The UFC had both guys right there, in Vegas, willing to sign. Islam and Khabib have coaching duties on Saturday night anyway, and Islam has said before that having Khabib as a coach is like cheating, so it’s not as if their teammates will be hugely disadvantaged without him there.
As if the opportunity to send his stock into the stratosphere, to paraphrase Jordan Belfort, having the fight be short notice at 170 (or even at catchweight), a loss here wouldn’t hurt Islam all that badly, for the same reason that it was fine last week: this was RDA’s fight. He was ready to make weight, Islam just needs that favor. Islam v Green was at 160 because Bobby needed the favor, and Islam was ready to make weight. Bobby Green GAINED stock by taking that fight last week, Islam has so much opportunity here to do the same, and here’s the kicker – RDA vs Moicano is happening at 160 anyway!
If that is not enough to convince you, in the 24 hours since that text hit Ariel’s phone, Jorge and Colby were Trending around 1,500 and 2,200 Tweets respectively, with UFC 272 around 3,600.
Islam raised the profile of this card thirty-fold at the possibility that he could be stepping in short notice. Khabib was a massive needle mover, and Islam is becoming one too. Imagine the story: Khabib retires after Abdulmanap’s tragic passing, with the knowledge that Islam will follow him, and Islam, having secured as many finishes as Khabib in the UFC in one less fight, already destined for that chance at gold, says “I want this fight. Not for gold, not for the money, but because I know that I am better than you, and I want to prove it. We have unfinished business.”
Isn’t that a better story for Islam? Even if Renato pulls off the upset, it’s at catch-weight, so does he immediately steal RDA’s spot in the rankings, jumping Fiziev, who beat him decisively at UFC 256, and has been nothing but dominant since?
Featured image credit to Embed from Getty Images