Prophecy completed at UFC 280, Islam Makhachev pieces together rest of story and how Alexander Volkanovski fits

MMA news

ABU DHABI – Islam Makhachev has long surrounded himself with legendary counterparts. Now a champion in his own right, he has a specific legacy in mind.

The next in a long lineage of UFC title holders from American Kickboxing Academy, Makhachev (23-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC) differs from the rest of the pack.

Khabib Nurmagomedov retired at 29-0. Daniel Cormier won two UFC titles and held them simultaneously prior to his retirement. So what’s Makhachev’s long-term goal now that he’s captured a title? How does he upgrade his status from champion to legend?

“I have to be No. 1 pound-for-pound champion,” Makhachev told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a UFC 280 post-fight news conference shortly after his submission of Charles Oliveira. “After that moment, we will see. We’re going to think about this. But right now, I have to defend this belt many times.”

Makhachev’s path was long on his mind. It played out exactly how his late coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov mapped it out. First, Khabib would become champion, then Makhachev. The story was written. Now nearing the end of the transcribed portion, Makhachev thinks the best way to achieve an even more ultimate goal would be to be recognized as the best – regardless of weight.

The pound-for-pound rankings are a crawl, not a sprint. That’s why Makhachev has his sights set on the current No. 1 placeholder in the UFC rankings, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski (25-1 MMA, 12-0 UFC).

“I have new target,” Makhachev said. “I have to be No.1 pound-for-pound champion. That’s why I have to go to Australia and beat this guy. … Volkanovski is tough. He has good skills, good striking, but he’s small for this division, I think. He wants to jump to 155. Let’s do this. This weight class is not his level.”

In February, the promotion will return to Australia. UFC 284 is expected to take place Feb. 11 at RAC Arena in Perth, and it seems like the promotion is lining up a matchup between the two champions.

Volkanovski weighed in as a backup for Makhachev’s fight against Oliveira. While not needed, Volkanovski also made an appearance in the cage during Makhachev’s post-fight interview for an impromptu staredown.

The potential matchup, should it happen, would be at 155 pounds. That means Makhachev would travel into enemy territory to defend his title – a situation that would turn off many champions, but not Makhachev.

“It doesn’t matter,” Makhachev said. “It’s good for us. We can travel to Australia. It’s a good country. We can make some camp there, training there. Before they announced the fight with Charles, Khabib told me many times, ‘Hey, if they’re going to give us a title fight in Brazil, we’re going to go to the Brazil.’

“Like one month ago, I had message with him where we talked about this. He sent to Dana text message, ‘Hey, let’s go do this in Brazil. We can go to the Brazil,’ but some people don’t believe. But we can show people the message what Khabib said (to) Dana.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 280.

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