Islam Makhachev: Dustin Poirier, coach don’t believe they can beat me at UFC 302

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Islam Makhachev considers himself the best fighter in the world and thinks Dustin Poirier might, too.

Ahead of UFC 302, Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC) theorized opponent Poirier (30-8 MMA, 22-7 UFC) might lack confidence with their fight. Makhachev hinted doubt might stem from what he perceives as lacking progression since Poirier fought Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“Honestly, he’s the same,” Makhachev told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a pre-fight news conference Wednesday. “Maybe he become more old. He doesn’t believe he can beat me. His coach doesn’t believe he can beat me. I know I can make this fight easy.”

Don’t mistake Makhachev’s confidence for disrespect. He praised Poirier throughout his answers and valued what a win over him would mean for his career.

“I always was thinking about him because all his life he’s in top five,” Makhachev said. “It’s my dream to fight someone like Dustin who has big name in this sport. I’m very happy because he’s going to be on my list.”

Poirier has revealed an internally-debated retirement in interviews during the lead up to Saturday’s fight. Makhachev hopes that doesn’t end up being the case.

“I hope he does not retire after this fight,” Makhachev said. “I think he’s one of the biggest names in this sport. That’s why I respect him. That’s why I respect him here because he has a lot of crazy fights in this sport. I’m just happy to beat someone who has a big name like Dustin, because for the legacy, it’s going to be maybe the biggest name in my list.”

Makhachev, 32, has won 13 fights in a row and doesn’t plan on stopping. Eight of those wins have been finishes. Makhachev plans to notch his 14th win and ninth finish Saturday.

“Yeah, I will finish him because I’m on a different level,” Makhachev said. “I’m the best fighter in the world right now. … Honestly, my style is the worst style for him. He can beat some striker. He can be one of the best strikers in this game, but we’re not strikers. We’re MMA fighters. My skills are on a different level.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 302.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie