Shavkat Rakhmonov Aims to Validate UFC Title Shot Readiness with Stephen Thompson Victory

Undefeated UFC welterweight Shavkat Rakhmonov believes he is already worthy of a title shot, but a win over Stephen Thompson could solidify his position, although he and his manager acknowledge that nothing is guaranteed.

Shavkat Rakhmonov, the undefeated fighter, doesn’t need a win over Stephen Thompson to feel worthy of a UFC title shot. In his head, he’s already there.

He’s set to fight “Wonderboy” this Saturday at UFC 296. A championship opportunity could be on the horizon. Since his UFC debut in 2020, Rakhmonov has dominated the welterweight division, finishing all five of his opponents.

A victory over Thompson, a two-time title challenger, might put him next in line for a title shot. He could face the winner of Saturday’s main event between champion Leon Edwards and Colby Covington. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Rakhmonov and his manager have made it clear that nothing is set in stone. “No, I didn’t have this conversation or any promises,” Rakhmonov said Monday on The MMA Hour. He’s ready to fight for the title, and a win over Thompson would just be another reason to prove it.

He’s not sure what will happen next. His focus is on Stephen Thompson. The rest, well, we’ll find out later.

The contender picture at 170 pounds is a bit unclear right now. Edwards and Covington have to settle their score first. They’ve both mentioned the possibility of moving up to middleweight to chase a second belt. And then there’s Belal Muhammad, who might have an edge after being designated as the backup fighter for the UFC 296 main event.

Rakhmonov, at 29, isn’t in a rush to be named No. 1 contender. He’s just glad to be back in action. A recent fight with Kelvin Gastelum fell through due to a Gastelum injury. When the Thompson fight was offered for Dec. 16, Rakhmonov was eager to test himself against a proven veteran.

“At first, I was scheduled to fight Kelvin Gastelum and he pulled out because of injury,” Rakhmonov said. But then Stephen Thompson was willing to fight him. Rakhmonov was just glad that someone accepted the fight.

Considering Rakhmonov’s rapid rise up the rankings — he is currently No. 4 at 170 pounds in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings — it wouldn’t surprise anyone if a win over Thompson vaulted him into a title shot in the near future. All Rakhmonov knows for sure is that he’ll be ready if the opportunity comes in 2024.

“Only God knows, but I wish to fight for the title next year,” Rakhmonov said. His goal? To win the belt and bring it back to Kazakhstan.


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