Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Islam Makhachev takes on Bobby Green this Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 49, but it wasn’t always supposed to be that way.

Originally, Makhachev was set to face Beneil Dariush in an unofficial No. 1 contender’s bout; however, Dariush was injured last week and so Green stepped in. And while the unranked Green wouldn’t have been Makhachev’s first choice of last-minute opponent, the No. 4-ranked lightweight in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings said he didn’t hesitate to accept the change.

“Honestly, when Beneil was injured, I told Ali [Abdelaziz, Makhachev’s manager] and he said the next day that nobody gave an answer, and I thought it wasn’t going to happen. Ali said, ‘Just Bobby Green give answer, he said he’s ready.’ I said let’s go,” Makhachev told reporters in his pre-fight media availability. “It doesn’t matter who because the last three months [were] so hard for me. I prepared for Beneil, training so hard. Just give me someone.”

That “someone” ended up being one of the more established veterans in the lightweight division. A fan favorite who has been competing in the UFC since 2013, Green is known as much for his fighting ability as for his in-cage antics.

Brimming with confidence, Green frequently can be heard talking to his opponents mid-fight, as he did just two weeks ago when he dominated Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 271. However, this weekend, Makhachev says he is the one who will be talking.

“This guy has big heart because he took this fight [with] one-week [notice],” Makhachev said. “He has good boxing style, and about wrestling and grappling, we will check.

“We’re gonna talk inside the cage. I’m gonna take him down and tell him, ‘Hey, let’s go. Get up.’ I’m gonna talk. He’s gonna talk with me when we’re beginning, striking, but when I’m gonna take him down, I’m gonna ask him a couple questions.”

As expected, Makhachev is currently a prohibitive betting favorite heading into the bout, and should he win, the Dagestani fighter will be on a 10-fight win streak in the lightweight division. And even though he’s no longer facing a top-ranked fighter like Dariush, Makhachev still believes that a win over a well-respected veteran like Green will be enough to finally earn him his title shot against the winner of the upcoming bout between Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje at UFC 274.

“Of course, because it’s gonna be my 10-fight win streak,” Makhachev said. “I really believe this is key for title fight. I think Oliveira is going to beat Justin Gaethje, and 11-win streak vs. 10-win streak, this is going to be a big fight for all MMA fans.”

UFC Vegas 49 takes place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

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