UFC's Plan For Ilia Topuria Revealed Following Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski Booking
Things can quickly change in the world of mixed martial arts, and that has been on full display this week.
The UFC has confirmed two major alterations to the lineup for next weekend’s pay-per-view in Abu Dhabi after compatriots Charles Oliveira and Paulo Costa were forced out of their main and co-main event spots through injury.
Replacing the latter will be former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, who will look to become the first to defeat Khamzat Chimaev in professional MMA in their co-headlining middleweight contest at UFC 294.
Stepping in for “Do Bronx,” meanwhile, is featherweight kingpin Alexander Volkanovski. Like in the original booking, the October 21 main event will be a rematch, with Islam Makhachev and “Alexander the Great” running it back eight months on from their clash in Perth, Australia.
With that, the UFC 294 poster boasts two new matchups on it. But it’s not only next weekend’s event that has been affected by the news.
Helwani Sheds Light On Topuria’s Status After Volkanovski’s UFC 294 Call-Up
Before being called up for a second opportunity at two-division glory, reports noted the expectation that Volkanovski would put his featherweight title on the line next January at UFC 297, a PPV targeted for Toronto, Canada.
His opponent in that scenario was Ilia Topuria, an undefeated contender who seemingly secured his first shot at the 145-pound gold with a dominant performance against ex-interim title challenger Josh Emmett this past June in Jacksonville.
With the UFC 294 shakeup, the status of Topuria’s return to the Octagon is now up in the air. Renowned combat sports journalist Ariel Helwani, however, laid out the two options the promotion is looking at for “El Matador” during an episode of The MMA Hour.
“What I’m told is the UFC’s current hope and plan is — and maybe you’re playing with fire a little bit — if Alex Volkanovski wins the belt and beats Islam Makhachev, and is healthy and good to go, he is ready and willing and open to fighting Ilia Topuria in Toronto,” Helwani said. “That is yet to be officially announced as the location, but at the January pay-per-view, and we all assume it’s Toronto.
“If he loses, there’s an option on the table to have Topuria fight Max Holloway. And if it means that he’s gonna be out for an extended period of time, then perhaps that will be for the interim title,” Helwani continued. “As you can see, there’s a lot going on here. But I want people in Toronto to know… just because Alex is taking this fight on 11 days’ notice against Islam doesn’t necessarily mean he is out of the fight in two months.”
Be it just as the featherweight champ or as a simultaneous two-division ruler, Volkanovski has frequently reiterated his desire to remain as active as possible during his UFC reign.
With that in mind, it’s unsurprising that he’s holding out hope of still sharing the Octagon with Topuria in two months’ time. The Georgian-Spaniard will now be wishing to see “Alexander the Great” escape UFC 294 relativity unscathed.
@alexvolkanovski best of luck. Get that second title so I can knock you out in January and become a double champ!
— Ilia Topuria (@Topuriailia) October 11, 2023
- Read Also: Alexander Volkanovski Insists All Pressure Is On Islam Makhachev At UFC 294: ‘I’m Coming Off The Couch!’
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