Alexander Volkanovski says breakout Russian star Islam Makhachev is the only thing standing between him and a UFC lightweight title blockbuster on home soil in early 2023, warning: “Islam won’t come to Australia, no way”.
Only four weeks after defending his UFC featherweight crown with a broken left hand, Volkanovski is already back training as part of a push to now go up in weight, earn ‘champ champ’ status and reign over two divisions simultaneously.
As revealed earlier this week, Australia’s No.1 fighter has even offered to go on standby for UFC 280 in October – when Makhachev and Brazilian Charles Oliveira, who owned the lightweight strap before being stripped after missing weight, will throw down for gold.
If both main eventers make it to the Octagon however, Volkanovski still wants to challenge the winner in an Australian blockbuster over summer, with February among dates being discussed by the UFC.
However speaking with The Daily Telegraph this week, the champ said if not called up himself for the October title fight in Abu Dhabi, he wants Oliveira to reclaim the lightweight strap.
“Because if Islam wins, he’ll sit on the belt,” Volkanovski said. “He won’t fight for ages.
“And he won’t come to Australia, no way.
“But Charles Oliveira, he would.
“I know he’d say ‘OK, let’s go defend again in Australia, that’s cool’.
“I can see him doing something like that because I feel Charles is a similar guy to me. It’s realistic he turns around quickly to defend.
“So Charles winning is the best result for me.”
Pushed on Makhachev, the champ continued: “If Islam wins, he’ll want to carry that belt around, show it off a little bit.
“And that’s not having a shot at him.
“A lot of fighters like to do that if they win a championship.
“But Charles will be happy to turn around quickly.
“He’s an exciting fighter.
“Brings plenty of hype, plenty of Pay Per Views.”
Asked if he was convinced Oliveira would be ready to go again in February, Volkanovski continued: “Well, it’s four months on.
“So to not fight, he would really need to break something.
“I mean, here I am (after breaking a hand in July) and telling everyone I might be able to fight again in October.”
On Thursday, Volkanovski jetted out for the United States so he can be cageside when close friend and training partner, New Zealander Kai Kara-France, fights for the interim flyweight title at UFC 277 in Dallas, Sunday (AEST).
Kara-France, who is part of the Auckland City Kickboxing crew, will start a $2.65 TAB outsider against Brandon Moreno, the $1.48 favourite.
Volkanovski also said he was “confident” UFC president Dana White wanted to make his first fight on Australian soil for the UFC lightweight title.
It comes after the champ confirmed himself among Australia’s greatest athletes — and the greatest UFC featherweight of all time — by beating Hawaiian legend Max Holloway for a third straight time, and via shut out, at UFC 276.
“A lot of people are talking about this move up,” he said of a potential shift to lightweight.
“The lightweight fighters are talking about me. The UFC are talking about me.
“Even recently when Dana White brought up the idea of an interim featherweight title, that’s not just because of my injured hand.
“That’s likely because I’ve got work to do at lightweight.
“So there are a lot of things pointing in that direction.”
Originally published as UFC: Alexander Volkanovski says Islam Makhachev won’t bring lightweight title fight to Australia