Coming off a first-round finish of Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 in May, uncrowned champion Oliveira set his eyes on getting the title he lost on the weighing scale back. The company president Dana White had assured him he would get the top contender spot if he won, and after the result, White announced Oliveira would fight for the promotional gold next.
Makhachev was chosen as the opponent to take on Oliveira for the vacant lightweight title at UFC 280 on Oct. 22 at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Being backed by longtime friend and Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov paved the way for the Dagestani fighter to step into the mix while other top-five ranked contenders either already had their shot or were not available for the event.
After winning the 145 lbs title from Max Holloway in Dec. 2019, Volkanovski has proven to be a dominant champion who somehow keeps looking better with each showing. He’s currently on a 22-fight win streak and has gone unbeaten in the UFC. Having cleared out the division, “The Great” shifted his focus on becoming a member of the exclusive ‘champ-champ’ club.
In an appearance on “The MMA Hour” with Ariel Helwani, Volkanovski backed Oliveira to win over Makhachev.
“At the end of the day, I just want the belt. What do you think the bigger fight is? I think the bigger fight is definitely Charles Oliveira,” Volkanovski explained (ht MMA Fighting). “I think he’s got so much hype on him. We know it’s going to be an exciting fight, he’s so exciting to watch. There’s a reason he’s so exciting to watch.
“Obviously — this isn’t a shot at him, I’ve got a lot of respect for him, but I think a lot of people miss that — they miss the fact that he takes damage. He loses a good portion of these big, exciting fights. That’s why they’re exciting. But yeah, it’s very fun.
“A lot of people are hyping him up, and again, I want big fights. I think Charles is definitely a bigger fight.”
Volkanovski Is Not Opposed to the Idea of Fighting Makhachev
The 33-year-old Australian is determined in his conquest for ‘double-champ’ status, and would be open to the possibility of facing Makhachev instead.
“If Islam has that title, I’ll fight Islam for that title. It doesn’t matter who it is, I’ll do whatever,” Volkanovski said. “They both have big challenges.
“They both have different challenges and big challenges, and that’s excites me too. A nice, big challenge, because again, I love when people doubt me. I love being the underdog, and it might be awhile until I’m an underdog in my division.
“But moving up, there’s going to be a lot of people that think it can’t be done, and I’m going to show them that it can.”
Volkanovski Has Not Been Guaranteed Anything
Volkanovski shared that the promotion had not promised him the opportunity to move up a weight class and challenge the champion. However, he believes he has worked hard enough to show that he deserves the chance to etch his name into history.
“Obviously these are conversations you have, but it was never something that was locked in,” he said. “I’m the type of guy, I want to be busy. If it’s not now, it can be later, as well.
“I’ve always looked at it that way. But at the same time, it’s something that we talked about, and they know that I deserve it too.
“I think we’re all on board, and we all think it’s fair, so right now we’re in a good position.”