After Makhachev (23-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC) won the vacant lightweight title with a second-round submission of Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 on Saturday, featherweight titleholder Volkanovski (25-1 MMA, 12-0 UFC) entered the octagon for a faceoff to set up a showdown between them, likely at UFC 284 on Feb. 11 in Perth, Australia.
After essentially cleaning out the 145-pound division, Volkanovski put himself in position to challenge for a second belt by offering his services as the backup fighter at UFC 280. He made weight ahead of the event in case his services were needed, and as a result seemingly locked himself into being Makhachev’s first challenger.
“That’s why I’m doing that type of stuff – that’s why you see me here and putting a lot on the line, committing to some big things a lot of people wouldn’t do just to put me in position where, again, no one can take an opportunity away from me,” Volkanovski told MMA Junkie and other reporters post-fight at UFC 280. “That’s just how I’ve been, always will be, and now I get to reap the benefits. I want to get that champ-champ and put myself in position where everyone wants to see it now, and even the guy holding that belt wants to see it.
“It’s all falling into place exactly how I wanted. During the week, I’m like, ‘I’m ready to go in there if I have to. But perfect world, if everything goes how we want it to, I fight the winner in Australia.’ This is exactly what it is. It’s going to be huge, not only for Australian fans – they deserve a big fight. They deserve me on that fight (card), either defending the belt or going for that champ-champ. It’s going to be crazy.”
Although Volkanovski has competed in the lightweight division before, he’s never faced anyone ranked or anywhere close to the level of Makhachev. The new 155-pound champion said he thinks “short” Volkanovski is going to have some major trouble adapting to the highest tier of the division, and sees his strength and power being an X-factor in the octagon.
Volkanovski begs to differ, however, and said his frame should actually play to his advantage against Makhachev’s grappling-heavy style.
“I’m very, very hard to not only take down, but hold down,” Volkanovski said. “One thing I always say, especially these little short legs, they’re very easy to get back to my feet. That’s going to be one hard thing. Getting me down is going to be problem. If you do, I’m bouncing right back up and it’s going to be standup most of the way through. That’s how I see it. And you ain’t going to land on me like that. I don’t just stand in front of you. I come forward and I’m coming straight at you.
“Everyone thinks I’m short, and then I’m punching them in the face and their face changes real quick when I’m in front of him. It’s not an insult. I know I am. But I’m the champ. I’m doing good and I’m going to keep this winning streak going and I’m going to show him what short people can do when they know what they’re doing.”
Betting odds already have been released for a potential Volkanovski vs. Makhachev meeting, and they have “The Great” as a sizable underdog. That’s exactly what he wants, though, and Volkanovski said it’s going to be a glorious moment when he shocks the world and joins the short list of fighters to win UFC titles in two divisions.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Volkanovski said. “I’m not going to sit here and say it’s not a challenge. But is it a challenge I can overcome and get through? One hundred percent, I guarantee I can. I’m looking forward to doing that. I want to be the underdog, as well. I’m looking forward to people being like, ‘He’s not going to be able to handle the power. He’s going to get taken down. He’s not going to be able to get back up.’
“I can’t wait to – as the fight goes – just proving people wrong as each second goes by. I love being the underdog. If people want to doubt me again, that’s beautiful.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 280.