Beneil Dariush understood when he returned from injury that the UFC probably wasn’t going to rebook him against Islam Makhachev much less give him an immediate title shot.
Despite riding a seven-fight win streak with four finishes along the way, the 33-year-old lightweight knew that the ankle injury that cost him a chance to face Makhachev in February would probably force him to earn one more win before he would become the No. 1 contender in the division.
Little over a week before his UFC 280, Dariush return, he received the bad news that Alexander Volkanovski had been leapfrogged once again. He was being contracted as a backup fighter for the fight between Charles Oliveira & Islam Makhachev. If he leaves Abu Dhabi without participating in the fight, plans were made to have him face the winner.
“It still sucks,” Dariush said during UFC 280 media day. “Being backup, losing that positions sucks. It’s a pain to lose the title shot. Although it’s as bad as it gets, I can understand why they do what they do .”
The chance to promote a champion vs. champion fight in the aftermath of UFC 280 would do big business for the UFC while the usually soft-spoken Dariush confesses that he’s rarely the person earning promotional attention ahead of his fights.
That’s why Dariush is resigned to earning his title shot the old fashioned way through hard work and a resume that will eventually make him undeniable as the No. 1 contender in the division.
“My focus is not the same focus as the UFC,” Dariush said. It’s different from [Dana White].. I understand Dana’s is basically profits and that’s what he’s supposed to do for his business. I have a different focus. My focus is I’ve been given a God given talent and I’m not wasting it. I’m not squandering it.
“I want to fight the best people in the world and I want to do it as often as I can. So if I can’t get the champion, I want another dog after this fight. I want to fight the best guys and it’s that simple.”
As upset as he might be about potentially being passed over for the next title shot, Dariush says the fact that he can’t get other top ranked lightweights to face him is far more disappointing.
Prior getting matched against Mateusz Gamrot Saturday, Dariush had hoped for a showdown either with Dustin Poirier (or Michael Chandler) — two former title challengers sitting near him in UFC rankings. However, they were matched against one another rather than facing the man with the longest winning streak in the division.
“It was frustrating,” Dariush said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. The most frustrating thing for me was finding an opponent after I returned. If I was not going to receive Islam, I felt it made sense to try to match up with [Dustin] Pirier. For that fight to be rebooked, I first asked for Islam.
” I couldn’t get the fight rebooked, so I decided to take Poirier. They said ‘not going to happen.’ Then Justin Gaethje had just fought so he wasn’t going to be available for a long time. So I said I’ll go with [Michael] Chandler and not an option either. I was frustrated and sitting there .”
Dariush acknowledges that Poirier vs. Chandler, which takes place at UFC 281 in November, is a big matchup for the promotion. The problem with this matchup is that he doesn’t have an opponent and has to make sacrifices for star power.
“What frustrates me, you’re not just a superstar — you’re an athlete,” Dariush said. “An athlete wants to face the best competition he can. So why wouldn’t they want to face me? My seven wins streak is now. When I defeated Diego Ferreira in the fight, it was six years ago. There are a lot of finishes. I took out Tony [Ferguson] so why wouldn’t they want to face me?
“That’s more the frustrating part. The fact that my peers don’t mention my name. It’s frustrating. It’s not about business. I’ll just be sitting here and looking for my next meal.”
If Dariush takes solace in anything regarding his place in the lightweight division hierarchy it’s that he might be the most feared man in the rankings but it certainly appears nobody near the top of the weight class wants to see him standing across from them in the octagon.
” When was the last time someone said my name?” Dariush asked. I don’t recall anyone in the top five saying my name. Maybe. It might not be something that I consider .”
the most important.