Islam Makhachev takes a shot at Jon Jones after accepting short-notice opponent change at UFC 294
When Islam Makhachev got the call that Charles Oliveira was out of their fight at UFC 294 and he would instead face Alexander Volkanvski in a rematch, the reigning lightweight champion didn’t blink.
In fact, UFC CEO Dana White praised his reaction with the initial message he received from Makhachev to confirm he was accepting the fight no matter the opponent. White relayed that Makhachev told him “what does this title represent? It means you’re the best in the world and if you’re the best in the world, it doesn’t matter who’s going to be standing across from you What do I say? No? Never. Let’s do this.”
Makhachev addressed the quote during UFC 294 media day on Wednesday while also taking a swipe at current UFC heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who infamously declined a short notice fight with Chael Sonnen after his original opponent Dan Henderson suffered an injury. That ultimately led to UFC 151 being cancelled where White called Jones’ decision “selfish” and “disgusting.”
“This is what a UFC champion has to do,” Makhachev said. “Like a real champion. If you’re a real champion you have to take the fight, it doesn’t matter how many days, who it’s going to be, not like your pound-for-pound champion [Jon Jones] when they gave him Chael Sonnen. When you’re a real champion, you have to fight.”
White loved Makhachev’s quote so much that he had those words emblazoned on the wall at the UFC APEX and the UFC Performance Institute to forever memorialize his willingness to face whoever was thrown at him — even on short notice.
Makhachev promised he would never back down from a challenge, especially when the UFC comes calling with an offer to fight. He also fired back at Volkanovski after the UFC featherweight champion suggested that while Makhachav accepted the new fight against him, he would never jump off the couch and compete on 11 days’ notice with no training camp or prior preparation.
“If the UFC told him bring your [featherweight] belt and come to Abu Dhabi in 11 days, he would never take [it],” Makhachev said. “Because he don’t have any risks without his belt he comes [to fight me]. He just comes to make money. Everybody knows this.”
Makhachev doubled down on his championship mettle and dispelled the notion that he’s under a brigher spotlight than Volkanovski by taking a short-notice fight against an opponent he already beat back in February.
Of course, the 31-year-old fighter from Dagestan also acknowledged that Volkanovski really doesn’t have anything to lose on Saturday because no one really expects him to win anyways.
“I don’t have any pressure,” Makhachev said. “Because I am a champion. It doesn’t matter who it’s going to be in front of me.
“But I agree this guy doesn’t have any pressure. He comes [to fight] on 11 days’ [notice], I already beat him and if I beat him again, people are going to say he came on short notice, not in good shape, something like this. For me, I just step to the cage, finish this guy, that’s it.”
If Makhachev wins again on Saturday, he would hold a pair of victories over Volkanovski and that might vault him back into the top spot among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.
That honor mattered to Makhachev once upon a time but it turns out he stopped caring about the UFC rankings after he ended up behind both Volkanovski and Jones following his return in March.
“They put [Jon Jones] No. 1 [pound-for-pound]. Who has he beat his last five fights?” Makhachev said. “He don’t have some names from top pound-for-pound rankings. I just want to say about the rankings, all these things, this is bulls*** and I am not following anymore.
“Because last time I beat [Alexander Volkanovski, No. 2 versus No. 1. If you beat No. 2, you have to be No. 1 but I don’t know who makes the rankings.”