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Ilia Topuria vows to finish Alexander Volkanovski in 1st, champ fires back: ‘Do you watch me fight?’

Ilia Topuria is not impressed by Alexander Volkanovski’s performance.

The UFC featherweight contender downplayed Volkanovski’s UFC 290 win over Yair Rodriguez, leading to an impromptu live rebuttal from the champ on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour.

“Nothing special,” Topuria said. “He did what he was supposed to do. He did a good job in the fight. He took him down, ground and pound. ... I wasn’t impressed at all. I saw what I was supposed to see – you know, beat [Rodriguez], because I never liked Jair’s fight style.”

Topuria later added, “For me, it’s going to be an easy fight [with Volkanovski]. ... Every time I move up in the rankings, every fight is going to be more easy for me. And why? Because it’s more easy to have a game plan against guys who are more technical than fight with someone who’s unpredictable.”

Topuria boldly predicted a first-round finish of the pound-for-pound great.

Not to be outdone, Volkanovski then hopped on to the show for a direct message to the undefeated Topuria.

“Please don’t fight Max [Holloway],” the featherweight champ said. “Don’t fight Max. Let’s just let that not happen. Let me be the guy to beat you up.”

Holloway is one opponent for which Topuria would delay a title shot, as he mentioned after beating Josh Emmett at UFC Jacksonville. But the Georgian and Spanish fighter said his management team has been assured by the UFC that he will get the next title shot. Volkanovski knows the same, he added, because the champ chose to have a faceoff after unifying the title against Rodriguez this past Saturday.

“I was [in] the first [row],” Topuria remembers. “[Volkanovski] was walking out, he saw me, and he called me to him. I jumped immediately, and we did the face-to-face. And I just talked about a small and short guy.

“He asked me, ‘Are you ready?’ I answered him, ‘I was born ready.’ I’m short, but he’s even shorter than me. He’s got a problem. ... I was expecting [the faceoff], because he knows that I’m the next guy in the line. I earned that. ... I earned that title fight, he knows that, and you can’t escape from that.”

There is, of course, one potential delay to the meeting, a lightweight title rematch between Volkanovski and Islam Makhachev, who outpointed him earlier this year to deny “The Great” of champ-champ status.

Volkanovski prefers to get another crack at Makhachev after a minor elbow surgery, but he’s by no means forgetting about Topuria.

“This stuff excites me as well,” he said. “I want to be active. Say if I can’t do the lightweight thing, I want to fight as soon as I can, even when I get this [elbow] cleaned up a little bit, I want to be straight back in there. ... I don’t have full confidence in [Topuria] winning the next one, so I want to be the guy that puts the beating on him. Because he likes to talk, which is exciting, so good on him.”

Volkanovski doesn’t take much from Topuria’s prediction of a quick finish.

“He’s got to be confident,” the champ said. “There’s confidence, and then there’s delusional. I don’t mind the bloke, but even with things that he says, what he’s saying doesn’t really make sense, like, ‘I’d beat him in the first round.’ Like, do you watch me fight?”

That’s why, for Volkanovski, the Makhachev matchup remains first on his list.

“The Ilia fight? Not a challenge. I do like a challenge to hype me up,” he said. “I don’t need to pretend this is some crazy challenge to get me motivated. The way he talks, that’s motivation, that gets me excited, so that’s what I love.

“He’s probably very lucky, the timing of everything for him, because he’s in a position where he might get a title fight in the position he’s in. Do I think he’s done more than enough? No, I don’t. But people want that fight. I want that fight. Everyone’s hyped up for it. I’m hyped up for it.”

As for Topuria, he’ll patiently wait until Volkanovski is ready to sign a contract.

“He says that I’m the easiest fight he’s going to have in his whole career,” Topuria said. “We’ll see. Keep that same energy, champ.”

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