Islam Makhachev’s coach: Arman Tsarukyan impressive, but Justin Gaethje or Charles Oliveira likely next

American Kickboxing Academy coach Javier Mendez thinks Arman Tsarukyan has earned a UFC lightweight title shot, but there are people ahead of him.

Tsarukyan (21-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) scored a quick knockout of Beneil Dariush in the UFC on ESPN 52 headliner and called for a rematch with champion Islam Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC).

But with Justin Gaethje waiting for his title shot and Charles Oliveira hoping to get his rematch with Makhachev rebooked, Mendez doubts Tsarukyan is Makhachev’s next title defense. Tsarukyan gave Makhachev a valiant effort in his UFC debut in 2019 but ultimately fell short.

“It was very impressive,” Mendez said on his YouTube channel. “Definitely because they had history and the fight was a very tough fight for Islam, you would think the UFC being the marketing machine that they are, that they’re always looking for intriguing matchups. But I think honestly there’s too many people ahead of him.

“I think Justin Gaethje, Charles are head of him, so I think that’s something they can hold later. I think, honestly speaking, we’re going to be looking at I would imagine would be Charles or Justin. Arman would be later, but I think he’s going to have to have one more fight. Not because he has to have one more fight, but because he’s not going to want to settle and do nothing.”

Whether the UFC opts to reschedule the Oliveira rematch or give Gaethje the title shot, Mendez says Makhachev is willing to face whomever is offered to him.

“I already know on Islam’s part, he’s not choosing the opponent,” Mendez said. “So, it comes down to whoever the UFC is going to offer, who they work out the deal with. Not who Islam chooses because whoever they say, he’s going to fight.”

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Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie