Featherweight champion Volkanovski has been dominant at 145lbs and will this month look to become the UFC’s fifth ever dual-weight champion, as he challenges recently-crowned lightweight king Makhachev.
“The fact that I’m moving up [in weight], it’s always gonna be like, ‘Ah, you know,’ especially with me being reasonably small as well, short,” Volkanovski told Main Event on Tuesday (31 January).
“And then they’re looking at it stylistically: ‘This guy’s not only moving up, where people are gonna have a size advantage, now he’s versus the best grappler-wrestler in that division. Strength has never been an issue for me; I’ve always been undersized in everything I did.
“Every session I’m doing is a specific position for this fight. I don’t want to waste not even a single minute on something I ain’t gonna do. Right now, every minute I’m spending in the gym is specific for Islam. Obviously if we don’t get taken down, yeah, beauty, but in my head I need to prepare as if we’re going down.
“I need people to put me in the worst possible position, and I’ll fight from it. That’s why you’ll see me always composed, no matter where I am. Even if he gets me in a bad position, you’ll probably see a smile on my face, you’ll probably see me talking to him, like: ‘Hey, is this all you’ve got? You’re not as strong as you thought, alright? I’m not as small as you thought, alright?’”
Australian Volkanovski, who will be fighting on home turf during his main event with Makhachev in Perth, enters UFC 284 on a remarkable 22-fight win streak. Meanwhile, Russian Makhachev – a childhood friend of coach and former UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov – has won his last 11 fights.
Makhachev, like Khabib, is renowned for his wrestling abilities, which are arguably unrivalled in the UFC. Meanwhile, Volkanovski is seen by many as the UFC’s pound-for-pound No 1 fighter and he is known for his versatility. The 34-year-old believes the key to beating Makhachev, however, lies specifically in the striking exchanges.
“I’m gonna be fighting for every milimetre, and I’ll do that for 25 minutes,” Volkanovski said. “You won’t see me break at all, I’ll keep going. I want to get straight back up, look at him, look at his corner, and be like: ‘What now?’ Put some of these [fists] in his face.
“I need to capitalise when I’m on the feet. If he gets me down and I get back up, I need to put hands on him. I need to win the rounds or put him to sleep, and I’m gonna be putting hands on him and trying to find that chin – and trying to find it hard.
“I feel like them [Makhachev, and Khabib before him] being so uncomfortable on the feet and getting desperate for takedowns, and not being as succesful as they originally planned, I feel like that’s where [Makhachev] is gonna start losing his head – him and his corner.”
Conor McGregor became the first fighter in history to hold two UFC titles at once when he added the lightweight belt to his featherweight strap in 2016. Since then, Henry Cejudo, Daniel Cormier and Amanda Nunes have joined the Irishman as the promotion’s only other dual-weight champions.
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