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UFC 294: Alexander Volkanovski doubts Islam Makhachev fight would happen ‘if roles were reversed’

Islam Makhachev gets his arm raised after beating Alexander Volkanovski in February

Islam Makhachev gets his arm raised after beating Alexander Volkanovski in FebruaryMakhachev beat Volkanovski in February for the first defence of his title

Alexander Volkanovski says his lightweight title rematch with Islam Makhachev at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday would not happen “if roles were reversed”.

Australia’s Volkanovski, 35, stepped in to face 31-year-old Russian champion Makhachev on 12 days notice after Charles Oliveira pulled out injured.

Makhachev first fought Volkanovski in February, edging a close decision.

“I guarantee there aren’t many fighters who would do this,” said Volkanovski.

“Put it this way, if the roles were reversed, this fight is not happening. I don’t care what anyone says, he’s not fighting on 12 days’ notice.”

Featherweight title holder Volkanovski is moving up in weight for a second time in search of becoming just the fifth simultaneous double champion in UFC history, following Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes and Henry Cejudo.

Critics have argued there is less pressure on Volkanovski with him taking the bout at short notice, but the Aussie disagrees, arguing this could be his final attempt at winning a second championship.

“If I was to lose, my legacy takes a big hit. I don’t get another shot at him or the lightweight title, and how much longer do I have?” said Volkanovski.

“You don’t know these things. There’s definitely still a lot to lose. He takes a big hit to his legacy, losing to the featherweight champ, coming in on 12 days’ notice. There’s pressure on him, but still a lot to lose for me too.”

Volkanovski is already widely-regarded among the best featherweights in UFC history after defending his title five times since winning it off Max Holloway 2019.

But he sees the Makhachev matchup as an opportunity to elevate his legacy among the all-time pound-for-pound greats.

“It’s high risk but high reward, that’s how I look at it. That’s why I’ve been busting myself for the past 12 years so I can be that guy who can do things like this,” said Volkanovski.

“Some history-making kind of stuff and have a legacy that people will be talking about for a very long time.”

Makhachev, meanwhile, whose last title defence was the win over Volkanovski, argues his opponent has only taken the fight for financial gain.

“He doesn’t have any risk; he’s come just to make money,” said Makhachev.

“He doesn’t have any pressure. I already beat him and if I beat him again these people will say: ‘You beat him on short notice, he’s not in good shape.'”

Like Volkanovski, Makhachev is targeting a second belt, and is keen on facing the winner of the welterweight title fight between Britain’s Leon Edwards and American Colby Covington on 16 December.

“If they call me, I will be ready for Leon or Colby. My dream is I want the second belt,” said Makhachev.

“Because we have many UFC champions but not many double champions. I want to be double champion.”

Chimaev fight is me soul-searching – Usman

Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards shake hands following their trilogy fight in MarchUsman (right) defended the welterweight title five times before defeat to Edwards (left)

The co-main event is a middleweight bout between Nigeria’s Kamaru Usman and Chechen-born Khamzat Chimaev.

Like Volkanovski, former welterweight champion Usman was a late replacement for the bout after Paulo Costa pulled out injured.

The fight with Chimaev is 36-year-old Usman’s first since he failed to regain his title against Edwards in March.

Chimaev, 29, is unbeaten during his 12-fight career and has built a fearsome reputation since making his UFC debut in 2020, beating four of his six opponents in the first round.

Usman says fighting an opponent such as Chimaev provides an opportunity to “soul-search” for him.

“It’s an opportunity to test yourself, to be able to elevate yourself, it’s part of being a man, part of living,” said Usman.

“You have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows and living is being able to get back up on that horse and test yourself again.

“It’s soul-searching. When I was sitting down waiting for a fight, what was everyone saying? ‘Oh he’s beaten [everyone]’. What excites you [excites me] about this fight.”

UFC president Dana White has said previously the winner of the bout between Usman and Chimaev will receive the next shot at middleweight champion Sean Strickland, who defeated Israel Adesanya last month.

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