The list of potential opponents for Islam Makhachev at UFC 294, which will take place inside Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Oct. 21, 2023, just got a little shorter, opening the door even more for Alexander Volkanovski to get a rematch.
While UFC has been pretty steadfast in its refusal to promise anyone a title shot against its Lightweight champion Makhachev, former 155-pound roost-ruler, Charles Oliveira, was clearly one of the frontrunners to fight for the belt in October.
Until yesterday, when “Do Bronx” abruptly took himself out of the running.
Here is our discussion regarding his rematch with Islam Makhachev: pic.twitter.com/dEhWg7pDN6— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) July 8, 2023
“Just spoke with Charles Oliveira who says that he will not be ready to face Islam Makhachev in October,” TSN reporter, Aaron Bronsteter, wrote on Twitter. “He is hoping to face him in November or December and is willing to wait for the opportunity. He assured me that he will be champion again.”
According to Makhachev’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, that timing isn’t going to work.
“Islam will fight in Abu Dhabi,” he stated simply, quote-tweeting Bronsteter’s report.
Makhachev hasn’t fought since Feb, 2023, when he rebuffed Featherweight kingpin Alexander Volkanovski’s “champ-champ” attempt. Makhachev was originally hoping to fight again soon after, but was told by UFC brass to take the summer off and prepare for a headline fight in Abu Dhabi. So, there’s simply no way he’s going to shift from that plan. Especially not to face someone he recently beat. And especially not when that someone has only won one fight since.
So, where does that leave Makhachev for opponents? There’s a big hype fight between Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje at UFC 291 in a few weeks. Neither man has faced Makhachev before, and both provide more than enough star power to make UFC’s partners in Abu Dhabi happy.
And then there’s a rematch with Volkanovski. Makhachev and Volkanovski engaged in an entertaining war at UFC 284 (watch highlights), with Makhachev narrowly edging “The Great” via unanimous decision. Volk’s performance was so strong, though, that he retained his spot above Islam as the No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in UFC. A rematch in the Middle East would give Makhachev an opportunity to claim that top position and silence the critics who claim he lost the first fight.
Volkanovski is certainly down for the fight, despite recent comments about needing arm surgery.
“We all know I want that Lightweight belt,” he said at UFC 290’s post-fight press conference. “We all know I want that rematch. I want that Islam fight. I think not only for me to get that belt, to get that win back, but I think it is a massive fight for the UFC as well.
“It makes it a lot better opportunity for me to step in there,” he said about Oliveira not being ready. “I’m not ruling that out. It’s funny. These people want extra time off and here I am telling you I’m going to get surgery and I’ll probably going to turn out there in October.”
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