Ilia Topuria only has featherweight legends in mind for his next fight.
Following a dominant win over Josh Emmett in Saturday’s UFC Jacksonville main event, Topuria made it clear that he has championship gold in his sights as he declared himself the No. 1 contender for the 145-pound title. Specifically, he mentioned that he wants to challenge long-reigning champion Alexander Volkanovski, who next defends the belt against interim champion Yair Rodriguez at UFC 290 on July 8.
At the evening’s post-fight press conference, Topuria was asked if he would consider fighting Max Holloway instead should Volkanovski defeat Rodriguez and then work towards a rematch with lightweight champion Islam Makhachev instead of defending the featherweight belt.
“Busy, not busy, I don’t know if [Volkanovski is] busy,” Topuria said. “I’m the next guy in the line, I can wait. One of the best skills I have is patience. If they offer me to fight with Max Holloway in Spain, let’s do it. If not, I’m going to wait for my title shot.”
Like Volkanovski, Holloway already has his next fight booked, as he is set to face “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung at UFC Singapore on Aug. 26. The former UFC champion is a massive favorite to beat Jung, which would keep him on schedule for a fight with Topuria if the matchmakers are so inclined.
For Topuria, Holloway is exactly the kind of name he envisions facing off with in Spain, where he lives and trains.
“One of the dreams I had was to become a UFC world champion and to bring the UFC to Spain,” Topuria said. “It’s going to be something huge for me to make my dreams reality, because that’s one of the dreams I had and I have.”
The end goal for Topuria remains a championship fight, preferably against Volkanovski. “The Great” has been unbeatable at featherweight, with a trio of wins over Holloway and notable wins over Jung, Brian Ortega, Jose Aldo, and Chad Mendes. He suffered his first loss in nearly a decade this past February at UFC 284 when he moved up to 155 pounds to unsuccessfully challenge Makhachev for the lightweight title.
Topuria wants to be the man to end Volkanovski’s reign atop the 145-pound division.
“I showed it tonight,” Topuria said. “No one can match my level of skill inside the cage. I think everyone agrees with me. I know that I can finish anyone in this division. Josh was tough tonight, but I beat him pretty easy and it’s not going to be different with Alex. The result is going to be the same.
“I’m going to knock him out in the first round, second round. If not, I’m going to dominate him for five rounds, no problem.”