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Alexander Volkanovski: If Islam Makhachev was a featherweight, ‘I’d squash him’

UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski has shifted his energy toward getting a rematch with lightweight titleholder Islam Makhachev after coming up short on the scorecards at UFC 284.

Volkanovski believes he won Rounds 2, 3 and 5 of this past Saturday’s title superfight and said the result didn’t settle the pound-for-pound debate it started. Makhachev earned a unanimous decision by scores of 48-47 twice and 49-46 to defend the lightweight title in Perth, Australia.

“A lot of people thought I won that fight, I thought I won that fight, and I moved up,” Volkanovski said Monday on The MMA Hour. “We’re talking about pound-for-pound. Imagine if we were in the same weight class. I don’t want to be that guy, but if he was just a featherweight in my division, I’d squash him. ... It’s a walk in the park. No offense to him, but that’s legit.

“I think I still proved I’m the better fighter and I’m pound-for-pound No. 1. But that’s not up to me.”

As confident as Volkanovski was in victory, he claimed the lightweight champion wasn’t confident in his immediately after the fight.

“I think he thought he might have lost,” the featherweight champ said. “He was even saying, ‘We need to do a rematch’ to his corner when he went back to his corner. He didn’t say loss, but I mean, he thought, ‘We need to do the rematch’ thinking that I was going to get my hand raised.

“Then he ended up telling people in the media backstage that he wants a rematch anyway. So, he knows. I’m not taking anything away – it was a close fight.”

Makhachev denied Volkanovski’s account of his words after the final bell. He said his win established him as the best fighter in the world. But according to Volkanovski, the lightweight champ and UFC are in his corner on the possibility of a rematch, though no formal negotiations have taken place.

Volkanovski isn’t the type to declare his place in the sport. At the same time, he believes a different set of judges could just have easily declared him the winner after seeing the same fight, and he still feels like the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter.

Makhachev is welcome to correct him, however. As to whether that happens, Volkanovski is cautiously optimistic. He spent much of his career trying to convince fans of his superiority after a pair of close fights with now-former champ Max Holloway, and he believes Makhachev will want the same.

Whatever happens next will reveal the Dagestani champ’s character, he said.

“I think it depends on him,” Volkanovski said. “He knows that this is going to leave a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. I’ve been there before. I know what it feels like, and he’s going to want to prove it to people. I would if I was in his position. I wouldn’t be happy with that. ... If he doesn’t, we know why.”

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