Russian champ Makhachev inks deal to fight UFC pound-for-pound king
Islam Makhachev will defend his title against Alexander Volkanovski in Australia next year
Russian star Islam Makhachev’s first defense of the 155lbs title he won in Abu Dhabi last month will come against the longtime UFC featherweight champion and top-ranked pound-for-pound fighter on the UFC roster, Alexander Volkanovski, it was revealed late on Saturday.
Makhachev, a longtime training partner of UFC icon Khabib Nurmagomedov, made good on the lofty expectations which have been placed upon him since he first set foot in a UFC cage when he submitted former champion Charles Oliveira to claim the vacant UFC lightweight title in the UFC 280 main event – snapping the Brazilian submission artist’s 11-fight win streak in the process.
Afterwards, a celebrating Makhachev was greeted in the Octagon by Volkanovksi, the former Australian rugby player who has risen to become one of his generation’s most dominant mixed martial arts fighters, as evidenced by a 25-1 career record during which he has gone almost a decade without experiencing defeat.
The two rivals shared a respectful handshake in the cage after Makhachev’s title win but any such platitudes will be absent when they do battle early next year, after the UFC officially revealed that they wills square off in the UFC 284 main event set to take place in Perth, Australia on February 12.
“We're obviously pushing for it,” Volkanovski said recently in advance of the fight being confirmed. “Everyone wants it. We’re going to make it happen.”
The 5ft 6in Australian will give away significant size to his Russian counterpart, a factor which is expected to tilt the bookmakers’ odds in his favor – particularly given the dominance that Makhachev has displayed in his bouts with natural lightweight fighters throughout his UFC career to date.
Volkanovski, though, has fought through a size disadvantage for practically his entire career and the former rugby star is known for possessing an almost unnatural level of strength given his relatively diminutive size, and has manhandled some of the featherweight division’s all-time great fighters such as Max Holloway (x3) and Jose Aldo.
“It’s going to be like a David and Goliath, because everyone thinks he’s the strongest man on the planet, best grappling anyone has ever seen,” Volkanovski further explained.
“The way they’re talking about him – it’s just going to look incredible when I get the job done.”
As for Makhachev, he recently called for the bout to be made official so that the pre-fight talk can progress towards something more definite.
“I’m not sure what UFC wants, February Australia or March Vegas, I honestly don’t care about location and opponent, I never choose opponents,” he said prior to the bout being confirmed.
“Just send a contract and stop playing games.”
It seems that both men have got their wish. We’ll see who was right to do so in February.