The featherweight division currently lacks a clear-cut No. 1 contender for Volkanovski after the Holloway rematch, and though someone might make a case later in the year, the featherweight champion has another option he’d like to pursue: chasing down lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“I don’t like people chasing other divisions, but (fighting Nurmagomedov) is definitely an option,” Volkanovski told theScore recently. “Right now, I’ve got a belt to defend and then there’s probably going be number one contender (after that). But I mean early next year, if something comes to me, like that fight, I’ll have to take it.”
Nurmagomedov is currently the second-ranked pound-for-pound fighter according to the UFC rankings. At 12-0 in the UFC, with wins over the likes of Rafael dos Anjos, Conor McGregor, and Dustin Poirier, Khabib has already put himself in the “greatest lightweight of all time” conversation and his MMA grappling become something of a legend already. But despite the near-mythical status of Khabib’s game, and the fact that he’d carry a substantial size advantage into a fight, Volkanovski is confident in his chances to be the guy to hand Khabib his first loss.
“Khabib is one of the GOATs as well. Nothing but respect for the dude,” Volkanovski said. “But I’m very, very hard to hold down. I’ve obviously got the brains. I’ve got the cardio. I’m a freak when it comes to holding on the ground; it’s just almost impossible holding me on the ground. Nothing but respect to all the fighters that are in the UFC, but every single one of us wants to prove something. And you know, eventually, I want to prove myself in that lightweight division too.”
Nurmagomedov is currently rumored to be facing Justin Gaethje in September as his next title defense. Should Nurmagomedov retain his belt, UFC President Dana White has made no secret that he’d like to see a Khabib-Conor McGregor rematch. Khabib has been less excited by that fight, but there are other options for him at lightweight, including a bout with Volkanovski’s City Kickboxing partner Dan Hooker, should Hooker defeat Dustin Poirier next weekend. And if Hooker doesn’t win, well that might just open the door for a Volkanovski title shot.