Khabib Nurmagomedov has sent a brutal message to Justin Gaethje, saying why Islam Makhachev deserves a title shot ahead of him.
Gaethje, who is currently ranked second in the lightweight rankings, is expected to fight the winner of next month's fight between reigning champion Charles Oliveira and No.1-ranked Dustin Poirier for the championship.
However, Khabib is of the opinion that his compatriot Makhachev deserves a title shot ahead of the American. The Dagestani wrote on Instagram, saying that Gaethje blew his chance of winning the championship thrice and the 30-year-old should get a chance to fight for it given his current run of form.
Khabib said: "In your last 8 fights, you got finished three times Justin. You had an opportunity to become champion but you fell asleep. Islam is on a nine-match winning streak, 3 fights in 2021 and all finishes.
"Just shut up and admit that Islam deserves this title shot, not you."
Gaethje was the interim lightweight champion after defeating Tony Ferguson but was unable to win the championship as Khabib submitted him with a triangle choke in what was the last fight of his career.
Makhachev has been sensational this year, beating Drew Dober, Thiago Moises and most recently, Dan Hooker, submitting all of them. He is currently ranked fourth in the UFC lightweight rankings.
Gaethje and Makhachev both have a strong case as to why they deserve the title shot. However, it seems more likely that the former will fight for the championship against either Oliveira or Poirier.
Gaethje said a few days back that facing the Brazilian would be easier than taking on The Diamond. "Oliveira is easier," claimed the 32-year-old. "For sure, he's an easier matchup. Both incredibly dangerous, both at the top of this game. You know, highest level fighters.
"(But) it all comes down who makes a mistake first. But I take back nothing when I said, 'When I get to fight Charles Oliveira, I'll show you that there is no f***ing dog in that man.' And that will be the game plan... He's easier for me, he ain't no easy fight for nobody.
"When it comes to Poirier vs. Oliveira he's the easier fight for me because I'm a f***ing dog and this dude is not. The best story that I can write would be to f***ing show that. But I really want my revenge on Poirier too."