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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Alex Pattle

Islam Makhachev demands two words from Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 294 press conference

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Islam Makhachev has demanded a ‘thank you’ from Alexander Volkanovski ahead of their rematch at UFC 294, where the latter is challenging the Russian on 11 days’ notice.

Volkanovsi is replacing Charles Oliveira in Saturday’s main event in Abu Dhabi, bidding for revenge against Makhachev after losing a narrow decision to the lightweight champion in February.

Volkanovski, who holds the featherweight title, was fighting on home turf in Perth, Australia, on that occasion, whereas Makhachev will have the majority of the support at the Etihad Arena.

“I feel great. All the people, they’re all on my side now,” said a grinning Makhachev, 31, at the UFC 294 press conference on Thursday (19 October). “Last time in Australia... everything has changed, brother, everything has changed,” he added, looking at Volkanovski, 35.

Volkanovski replied: “Islam needs all the advantages he can get, that’s all he thinks about. I don’t need none of that; I’ve got these [my hands], that’s all I worry about. I rely on my skills – not crowds, not nothing.”

“Everybody knows what you need: just money, that’s it,” Makhachev fired back. “He’s just come to make money. I put my win streak, I put my belt [on the line].”

Volkanovski took issue with the Dagestani’s claim, saying: “I don’t know what mentality or mindset he has; I want to avenge my losses. It burns me. I didn’t get my hand raised, that hurts me. Now I have to do it on [11] days’ notice, and I’m okay with that. I accept that, and I’m ready to put on a show.”

Mateusz Gamrot was the planned back-up fighter for UFC 294’s original main event, but the lightweight contender was overlooked in favour of Volkanovski, whom some fans believe should have been declared the winner against Makhachev in February.

“You have to say thanks to me,” Makhachev told the Australian on Thursday. “I can choose any other opponent. We have Gamrot, we have [Dustin] Poirier, everybody is ready to fight for the belt. But I give you for the second time a chance. Just say ‘thank you’, that’s it.”

The champions also paid respect to each other, however. “Of course he is good,” Makhachev said. “If you want to beat him... he never gives up, he’s gonna fight five rounds, it doesn’t matter how many days’ notice. We will show the best fight again for all the people [who were] waiting for it.

“I tried [to finish him], brother, but this guy’s so tough. I landed many good punches, but this time... maybe some choke or something,” the Russian laughed.

Makhachev’s victory over Volkanovski extended his win streak to 12 in a row, dating back to 2016. Meanwhile, that result marked Volkanovski’s first defeat since 2013. The Australian bounced back with a TKO win against Yair Rodriguez in July, beating the Mexican to retain the featherweight title.

Volkanovski has reigned as featherweight champion since 2018, defending and retaining the title five times. Meanwhile, Makhachev won the vacant lightweight belt by submitting Oliveira at the Etihad Arena last October. The Russian’s rematch with the former champion was due to take place 364 days after their first bout.

In the co-main event of UFC 294, former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman replaces Paulo Costa on 10 days’ notice, making his middleweight debut against rising contender Khamzat Chimaev.

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