Alexander Volkanovski has stepped into the lion’s den on 11 days notice for a blockbuster lightweight title rematch with Islam Makhachev at UFC 294 – but it hasn’t altered plans to defend his featherweight title.
The 35-year-old had been sidelined with an elbow injury since defeating Yair Rodriguez on July 8th, and was previously slated for a return in January to defend his belt against Ilia Topuria.
However, when the phone call arrived from UFC decision-makers last week asking whether the Australian star would be willing to replace Charles Oliveira, there was minimal hesitation.
In an interview with The MMA Hour, Volkanovski explained his mindset behind stepping up to the plate to face Makhachev in Abu Dhabi in his bid to become a double-champion within the UFC.
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“I was gonna come to Abu Dhabi just as a guest, and then they go ‘you wouldn’t believe it’ and mentioned Charles, there was something up,” he said.
“I just sort of laughed and went ‘alright, let’s do it’… off we went to camp, pretty much. I didn’t need to be convinced, but you’ve still got to talk and even weight.
“I pretty much said yes straight away and said I was on board. Everyone was on board and everyone was excited. The support I had from everyone, as soon as we knew, was incredible.
“Elbow surgery I had pretty much straight after the fight. I’ve been able to spar and wrestle for about four or five weeks… everything is still fresh in my mind.
“I’m very happy with the short amount of time, we all did such a great job getting me in shape. I’ve always said that if these things do happen, I’m the guy that can take these opportunities.
“I’ve still been doing enough and I’m very comfortable with where I am… all week, I was very excited.”
When will Alexander Volkanovski defend UFC featherweight title?
While the chances of joining an elite list of competitors and becoming a double-champion is obviously enticing for Volkanovski, he still has a duty to uphold as the king of the 145lb division.
And with a showdown against Topuria scheduled for UFC 297 in January – just three months after his clash with Makhachev – the pound-for-pound No.1 has no hesitation in taking on both challenges in quick succession.
“Yeah, 100 per cent – I’ve shown that I’ll back up, I don’t need to explain myself, I’ll do it,” Volkanovski said.
“If I go out there and say that I’m the double-champ, I want to defend both belts… they think it can’t be done.
“I can keep both divisions busy – I definitely plan on fighting in January.”
The event is currently expected to be held on January 20th in Toronto, Canada.
Alexander Volkanovski predicts finish against Islam Makhachev
Before he can get to Topuria and continue to cement his legacy as the greatest featherweight in history, the south-coast sensation will need to rectify the only blemish on his UFC record against Makhachev.
Despite the limited preparation, Volkanovski is remaining confident and believes he is well-placed to topple the Russian title-holder.
“I believe I finish him – I think you’re gonna see the most dangerous Volkanovski you’ve ever seen,” he said.
“I can’t afford to do anything else, that’s how I’m looking at it. We’re going in for the kill and stop leaving it to the judges, let’s go in there and really set a statement… that is legacy stuff.”
Volkanovski vs Makhachev in Abu Dhabi will take place on Saturday, October 21st (Sunday morning in Australia).