Alexander Volkanovski has big plans for next year.
Heading into 2023, Volkanovski made it clear that one of his goals for this year was to stay very active. Unfortunately for Volkanovski, two fights appears to be all that is in store for the featherweight champion this year a hand injury suffered during his title defense against Yair Rodriguez at UFC 290, and a full schedule for the UFC have left him on the sidelines for the rest of the year. Now recovered from his hand injury though, Volkanovski is planting his flag for a monster 2024, starting with a title defense against Ilia Topuria and then a rematch with Islam Makhachev.
“Obviously you’ve got the Ilia fight,” Volkanovski told reports during a media scrum at UFC 293. “That’s always going to be there. You’ve got that rematch that I want. I want to be active. Obviously Islam and Charles [Oliveira] are going at it soon. I don’t want to be waiting around so I’ll do early next year I think. I wanted this year but I think the schedule this year is not going to be able to fit me in. I think there’s a few champions that need to be fighting, which is fair, but I would have been happy to get one in this year. I really wanted three this year but it’s not looking likely. But early next year we’ll get it in and then hopefully another one not too long after that.”
Volkanovski fought Makhachev at UFC 284 this February, losing a competitive decision to the lightweight champion. In the aftermath, Volkanovski lobbied for an immediate rematch but ultimately missed out and now Makhachev is set to rematch Charles Oliveira at UFC 294 in October. Whoever leaves that fight as the UFC lightweight champion most likely has a date with ‘“BMF” champion Justin Gaethje early next year, which Volkanovski says actually works out for his plans.
“I don’t want to be waiting around,” Volkanovski said. “I guess that’s one beautiful thing about me, rather than waiting for a title shot, just keep me busy. It’s not like I’m looking past my opponent, but I’ve got full confidence in me doing my work in that featherweight division with Ilia. He’s tough, durable, but I’ll just keep showing that I’m on a whole other level and then I’ve got that fight. I’m being told Islam wants to be very active, so as long as the schedule still fits the same for me, I don’t care too much.”
Adding on to all that, UFC 300 is currently lining up to take place in April of 2024. Like UFC 100 and UFC 200, the fight card is sure to be a landmark event for the promotion and given how the timeline is looking, Volkanovski believes a Makhachev rematch would make perfect sense for that card.
“I think so. I think that makes a lot of sense,” Volkanovski said when asked about UFC 300. “For sure. I think that would be great, especially with me getting my hand raised in that one for UFC 300, that would be perfect. We’ll see what we can do but I think that’s one of the bigger fights that you can make. I truly do believe that. A lot of people want to see it again. It was very competitive and I guarantee you I get it done next time.”
That’s putting the cart before the horse though as Volkanovski still has to defend his belt first. Topuria is coming off a sensational win over former interim title challenger Josh Emmett in June, and has drawn interest as an opponent for Volkanovski not just for his fighting ability but for the interest he draws and his trash talking. Volkanovski believes that’s a perfect mix for him to start 2024 off against.
“He’s undefeated,” Volkanovski said. “He’s got a big following over there in Spain. He’s undefeated, he’s on a tear, he beat a guy that was up there, and he’s pretty much clearly the next guy, so that excites me itself. Then you see he doesn’t mind talking, he doesn’t mind getting in people’s faces and keeps things exciting, because sometimes it is like that...
“With this one, I don’t need to try and look for anything [to motivate me]. He’s going to try and talk his s*** and I love it, and the best part about it is we’re in a sport where you can make someone pay for it. So I can’t wait.”