Islam Makhachev isn’t spending much time thinking about UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski right now, but that may change in the very near future.
As he prepares to face Charles Oliveira in the UFC 280 main event, Makhachev, who is currently on a 10-fight winning streak, knows if anything goes wrong in the days leading up to the event that Volkanovski will serve as the replacement in the fight. Add to that, UFC President Dana White has also said it “makes sense” that Volkanovski will get the next title shot regardless of what happens at Saturday’s event.
For his part, Makhachev didn’t seem all that impressed by Volkanovski’s stature after running into him earlier in the week. But he doesn’t really seem to care all that much who is standing across from him – so long as the title is up for grabs.
“Honestly, I met Volkanovski downstairs – he’s a short guy,” Makhachev said during UFC 280 media day. “I ask him why you need to cut weight right now? But if I beat Volkanovski people are going to say [I beat a smaller opponent] but people are always going to talk.
“[Right now] I want to fight with Charles, and I hope he’s going to make weight. But it doesn’t matter. This camp, I trained so hard, it doesn’t matter who is going to be there. Saturday night, I need someone.”
Makhachev didn’t express much concern whether Oliveira can hit the 155-pound mark despite the Brazilian’s weight miss before his previous fight against Justin Gaethje, which cost him the UFC lightweight title.
That means it’s technically a vacant title on the line in the UFC 280 main event, though Makhachev still views Oliveira as the champion in the division even if he doesn’t necessarily consider him the best in the world.
“He’s a champion but he have to show all fighters a good example,” Makhachev said. “He has to be professional. I hope he’s going to make weight [this] time.
“Right now, he’s the champion. Right now, he’s the best lightweight but I don’t think he’s the best. Right now, I know this is my moment. I believe even right now I am the best lightweight in the world.”
During his current run, which includes 11 wins in a row and 10 finishes along the way, Oliveira has run roughshod over the best lightweights in the world, including consecutive victories in fights against Gaethje, Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler.
Oliveira’s dominance is highlighted by his complete MMA arsenal, but he’s still best known for his high-level grappling – and his record for the most submission wins in UFC history.
Many past opponents have actually gone out of their way to avoid grappling exchanges with Oliveira, but Makhachev promises he will seek out the chance to prove he’s the better fighter on the ground.
“Nobody can stop my wrestling,” Makhachev said. “I’m going to do my job. I’m going to do the same things always. Take them down, hold them, make them tired and finish them.
“This is my goal to finish him on the ground because I have to show all people my grappling level”
If he’s successful and becomes UFC lightweight champion, Makhachev will then gladly give Volkanovski all of his attention if that matchup ultimately ends up as his first title defense.
With the UFC planning a return to Perth, Australia in February, Makhachev welcomes the chance to beat Volkanovski on his home turf.
“Why not? Yes [I’ll fight Volkanovski in Australia],” Makhachev said. “I went to Australia one time. I can go again.
“This is going to be a good fight. Always when the champion from other divisions fights with other champions, it’s a big fight and very interesting fight for all fans.