When Rafael Fiziev was forced off UFC 272 after contracting COVID-19, it appeared for a moment that a long-awaited showdown between Islam Makhachev and Rafael dos Anjos might actually happen.
As it turned out, Renato Mocano was appointed Fiziev’s successor less than 24hours later.
But UFC president Dana White revealed on Wednesday that he thought a deal was done for Makhachev to take the fight — until he got word that the Dagestani lightweight had declined the opportunity.
“Pretty close. I thought we had it done,” White told Barstool Sports of Makhachev vs. dos Anjos. “When I went to bed one of the nights, I thought it was done. I woke up next morning to find out that they had turned it down. Islam [turned it down]. No clue [why].”
According to White, UFC matchmakers began looking for replacements immediately Fiziev was removed from the UFC card. A slew volunteers tried to get the fight.
Makhachev, who had previously been matched with dos Anjos twice in 2020 as well as 2021. was one of the first to mention his name. He was just days removed from a win over Bobby Green at UFC Vegas 49, which was a fight that came together quickly after Beneil Dariush was forced off the card with a leg injury.
Makhachev and dos Anjos even argued on social media about the matchup. However, White claims that something changed because White didn’t accept the fight.
” He and Islam were the best fighters we could have. White stated that RDA and Islam are the same thing. White stated that Islam turned down the fight. What’s the best fight you can make? [Renato] Moicano.”
Moicano accepted the fight knowing that he would have to fly nearly 20 hours from his home in Brazil back to the United States while also cutting down to 160 pounds for a five-round catchweight fight. On Wednesday, he arrived in Las Vegas and will now face dos Anjos at UFC .
As for Makhachev, despite competing less than a week ago, White still expected him to take the fight with dos Anjos, though obviously it didn’t happen.
While all indications pointed to Makhachev getting a title shot against Justin Gaethje, the lightweight champion at UFC 274,, it seems that he will now need more work before becoming the next No. 1 contender for the division.
“He’s obviously doing very well,” White said about Makhachev. I love the Dariush battle.
“Since he turned down this fight, we’re going to remake the Dariush fight. We’ll get that fight going. I’m dying to watch that fight. Dariush is defeated. Very interesting .”