Alexander Volkanovski admits it’s ‘crazy’ to fight Islam Makhachev on short notice

The featherweight king bids to avenge a loss to the lightweight champion, after replacing the injured Charles Oliveira at UFC 294

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Thursday 12 October 2023 14:14 BST
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Alexander Volkanovski had admitted it’s ‘crazy’ to fight Islam Makhachev on 11 days’ notice, as he prepares for a rematch with the lightweight champion.

Featherweight king Volkanovski was narrowly outpointed by Makhachev in February, while challenging for the Russian’s title, and the Australian will get his chance to avenge that loss on 21 October, in the new main event of UFC 294. Makhachev, 31, was originally set for a rematch with Charles Oliveira, but the Brazilian was forced to withdraw from the bout on Tuesday, due to a severe cut over his right eye.

As such, Oliveira will not get the chance to avenge his submission loss to Makhachev, who beat him for the vacant belt 12 months ago – in the Etihad Arena, no less, where UFC 294 takes place.

Volkanovski, 35, last fought in July, stopping Yair Rodriguez to retain the featherweight title, and he subsequently underwent surgery on a broken hand. He was expected to remain out of action until a potential title defence against Ilia Topuria in January, but “Alexander The Great” will instead try again to dethrone Makhachev.

“I got told about Charles having to pull out and needing a back-up,” Volkanovski said on his YouTube channel on Thursday (12 October). “[The UFC] hit me up yesterday, we said: ‘Alright, let’s do it.’

“[My team] did the negotiations; I just said, ‘Yeah, make sure it’s worth it!’” the Australian laughed. “This is obviously a pretty crazy thing to do. There’s probably not many fighters out there who would do this, especially in my position, but I always say that I will do these things; I am that guy that will do any time, anywhere, any weight – whatever it is. This is an opportunity to prove that once again against a tough, game opponent.

“We already battled it out this year, we thought we got the job done, but we didn’t get the hand raised, so [I didn’t get] that big moment of the whole underdog story. ‘There’s no way, he doesn’t stand a chance.’ I remember thinking about it just a few days ago, ‘I’m not gonna really get that moment if I fight him again, I’m not gonna be this crazy underdog. People are gonna see what I can do, so they’re gonna back me and think I can get the job done.’

“But now on 12 days’ notice, I’m sort of in the same position, where people are gonna say: ‘There’s no way – short notice, he’s crazy.’ So, I guess it’s an opportunity. A lot of people won’t do these things, but yeah... Would I prefer a better camp? Of course, everyone would. You know what I’m like with my preparation, I like to make sure.

Volkanovski during his narrow decision loss to Makhachev in February (Getty Images)

“But I’m the man for the job, If anyone can do this on 12 days’ notice, off the couch, it’s me. I get to go and shock the world in... how many days is it? Eleven days or something like that. It’s pretty crazy, [but] luckily I’m always training. Have I been on holidays? Yeah. Have I had a couple drinks here and there? Yeah, I have, but I guess that makes me feel a little fresher, so I’m really excited. It’s a bit different, I don’t feel worn out.

“A lot of people talk the talk, not many people walk the walk. I get to prove once again that I’ve got them big cajones. It’s crazy, it really is. It was a shock to me [... but] I was starting to get a little bored, so now we make things exciting. Let’s go out and finish this guy. No pressure on me, baby, no pressure at all. All the pressure’s on him. I’m coming off the couch; you better do something about it!”

The co-main event of UFC 294 also underwent a late change, with Kamaru Usman replacing Paulo Costa against Khamzat Chimaev on Wednesday.

Costa, who underwent elbow surgery two weeks ago, said he faces two more surgeries this week, ruling him out of next Saturday’s middleweight bout. The new match-up sees former welterweight champion Usman make his debut at 185lbs, against one of the most dominant prospects in MMA in Chimaev.

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