Alexander Volkanovski couldn’t offer any definitive updates about his potential showdown with lightweight champion Islam Makhachev at UFC 284 in Australia. But he promises the fight will happen as expected in February.
Following an octagon faceoff after Makhachev captured the title at UFC 280, Volkanovski appeared a lock to challenge the new champion. That was until Volkanovski posted a message on Twitter saying, “Are you a man of your word, Islam Makhachev? Let’s make it happen!”
The second I receive the paper, I will sign it, don’t worry ✏️ enjoy your P4P first spot for now https://t.co/7J4kUCKuE5— Makhachev Islam (@MAKHACHEVMMA) November 4, 2022
In response, Makhachev wrote, “the second I receive the paper, I will sign it, don’t worry. Enjoy your [pound-for-pound] first spot for now. Makhachev then added, “I’m not sure what UFC wants, February-Australia or March-Vegas, I honestly don’t care about location and opponent, I never choose opponents. Just send a contract and stop playing games.”
I’m not sure what UFC wants, February Australia or March Vegas, I honestly don’t care about location and opponent, I never choose opponents. Just send a contract and stop playing games— Makhachev Islam (@MAKHACHEVMMA) November 5, 2022
On Thursday, Volkanovski vaguely addressed that exchange without going into details about what exactly prompted his initial message aimed at Makhachev.
“We’re going to make it happen,” he said. “Don’t worry about that. Australia needs a big fight. Me just defending would be great, but me going for that lightweight title, taking that lightweight title in Perth on home soil would be incredible.
“That’s exactly what I plan on doing. I put the tweets out just to make sure it happens. I’ll leave it at that.”
Nothing has been made official by the UFC, so it’s possible that’s why Volkanovski decided to poke at Makhachev over social media.
Despite any potential concerns, Volkanovski fully expects the UFC to deliver the Makhachev fight to him as the headliner for the promotion’s upcoming return to Perth in February as he seeks to become a two-division champion.
“Of course, that’s the plan,” he added. “I want to go champ-champ, and I deserve it, and a lot of people agree. I can’t wait. It’s fired me right up. Again, I know people look at it as a challenge — yeah, it’s a challenge. That’s what excites me. It’s a challenge I know I’m ready for. I just had Craig Jones here yesterday doing wrestling. I’m keen. I’m bulking. I’m eating a lot of calories at the moment so it is good. I’m enjoying it. I’m going to be pretty stacked fight night.
“We’re looking at Perth. Just got to get that signed and make that happen. We will. Expect me and Islam to face off in February in Australia, which will be huge.”
Makhachev’s coach and friend Khabib Nurmagomedov initially called for the Volkanovski fight just moments after the UFC 280 main event ended, which prompted the Australian featherweight to enter the cage for a brief face-to-face confrontation.
From there it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that Volkanovski would move up to 155 pounds to challenge Makhachev, and that’s what he’s been preparing for ever since. In fact, he said he’s eating over 4,000 calories per day so his body will be prepared for bigger opposition at lightweight.
Volkanovski is also dedicating a lot of time to his wrestling, takedown defense and scrambling free from positions on the ground as he gets ready to face Makhachev, who happens to be one of the most suffocating grapplers in the sport.
“Going in again, I’m preparing for him to take me down,” Volkanovski explained. “So that’s how I mentally prepare. I always do that, but there’s so many layers before I even get there. It’s going to be hard to even get me down and get me exactly where he wants me. Flat on my back, it’s very, very hard to do. I’m very good at scrambling and again, these short legs are very hard to hold down, especially when I do so many weeks of just that.
“Let’s be real, we know he’s game. People are like ‘you need time.’ I’m already good at that. Now you’re giving me like two camps to keep drilling this type of stuff.”
In his win over Charles Oliveira in October, Makhachev proved that he’s not a one-trick pony because while he finished the fight with a submission on the ground, he actually hurt the Brazilian in several striking exchanges on the feet.
Volkanovski would love to test the theory that Makhachev is a complete mixed martial artist, because he doesn’t expect very much of their potential fight to take place on the canvas.
“People want to say he’s well rounded and things like that — we’ll see if he’s well rounded,” Volkanovski said. “Because I’m getting back to my feet. Let’s see if his stand-up is up to what supposedly people are trying to say.
“Well-rounded? We’ll see. Because it’s going to be stand-up. Because I know I’m getting back to my feet.”