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Islam Makhachev Has A Target And A Dream

Lightweight Champ Will Continue March Toward History When He Meets Alexander Volkanovski At UFC 284

At many stops on his road to the UFC lightweight title, Islam Makhachev wondered aloud when enough was going to be enough, and why he seemingly had to keep getting more victories while others were awarded opportunities to challenge for championship gold before him.

“Before I fight with (Charles) Oliveira, I beat many tough guys,” began the reigning lightweight champion, who claimed the title at UFC 280 and defends it this weekend against featherweight kingpin Alexander Volkanovski in a colossal fight that closes out UFC 284 this weekend at RAC Arena in Perth, Australia.

Top MMA Coaches Break Down Islam vs Alex

“I had a 10-fight win streak, but I think this is too long because someone fought just three or four times and they had the chance to fight for the title. My way, my career, I beat 10 guys, 10 opponents, and after the 10-fight win streak, I told everyone, ‘I think this fight is going to be key for the title fight.’”

Makhachev was correct.

Islam Makhachev of Russia celebrates after his victory over Charles Oliveira of Brazil in their UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 280 event at Etihad Arena on October 22, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Islam Makhachev of Russia celebrates after his victory over Charles Oliveira of Brazil in their UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 280 event at Etihad Arena on October 22, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)


That 10th consecutive victory over Bobby Green in February of last year finally punched his ticket to a championship bout against Oliveira in Abu Dhabi, where the 31-year-old from Dagestan rolled into the Octagon and ran through the Brazilian titleholder, submitting him in the second round.

It was the culmination of a lifetime of training and a moment long forecasted by his late coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, and many others.

UFC 284 Fight By Fight Preview

“This is crazy moment because all my career, Abdulmanap said, ‘After Khabib, you’re going to be champion; when Khabib is retired,’” explained Makhachev. “When I did this, when I won this belt, I’m so happy. When Khabib gives me the belt, this is big moment in my career because this is my dream; this is what I (was focused on) all my career — my training, what I did, how I sleep.

“When you win the belt, you know you did all things right; that’s why I was so happy in this moment.”

Islam Makhachev | 2022 Résumé
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Islam Makhachev | 2022 Résumé
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While Makhachev never wavered in his belief that his championship moment would come throughout his climb to winning the title, achieving that dream was still a special moment for the usually stoic Russian fighter, but it didn’t pull his focus away from competing and continuing to chase down massive achievements.

Before he even stepped out of the Octagon in Abu Dhabi, the new lightweight champion was setting up his next fight, calling for a bout with Volkanovski in Australia. The featherweight champ bounded into the cage, congratulated Makhachev on his victory, and accepted his challenge, and this weekend, they face off in the UFC 284 main event.

How To Watch UFC 284: Makhachev vs Volkanovski In Your Country

Throughout his ascent to the top of the lightweight division, Makhachev has increasingly shown more of a playful confidence than his long-time mentor, training partner, and coach, former champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. Where Khabib said everything in a matter-of-fact manner — both outside and inside the cage — Makhachev is a little more cheeky, offering up comments with a hint of a smile that lets you know he’s having a bit of fun.

“Doesn’t matter where we fight: Abu Dhabi, Australia, or (United States) — when the cage is closed, nobody can help him,” he said when asked about Volkanovski having home-field advantage this weekend.

Islam Makhachev of Russia battles Charles Oliveira of Brazil in their UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 280 event at Etihad Arena on October 22, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Islam Makhachev of Russia battles Charles Oliveira of Brazil in their UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 280 event at Etihad Arena on October 22, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)


“There is no secret — I always have the same plan: I try to finish my opponent,” Makhachev added when asked about his approach to Saturday’s contest. “I have the same plan with Volkanovski. We’re going to make him tired, bring him to the deep ocean, and finish him there.”

Which ocean?

“Doesn’t matter which ocean, but very deep,” he said, the playful side peeking through.

UFC 284 COUNTDOWN: Makhachev vs Volkanovski

For all his confidence, Makhachev is well aware of the skills the Australian standout possesses, and he believes that his standing as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport today is well-earned.

But he also believes he’s a nightmare matchup for Volkanovski and has clear ideas on how he’s going to beat him.

“He’s not an easy opponent — he’s a tough guy,” Makhachev said of the featherweight champion, who is undefeated inside the Octagon and enters the UFC 284 main event on an incredible 22-fight winning streak overall. “He beat everybody in his division, and he deserves to be pound-for-pound king right now, but I am the worst matchup for him.

Islam Makhachev's Win Streak
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Islam Makhachev's Win Streak
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“I think nobody checks his wrestling and grappling skills,” continued the lightweight champion. “His opponents all stay the same, striking and boxing with him, but I’m going to check his wrestling and boxing.”

Volkanovski is considered one of the most complete fighters in the sport, but his wrestling and grappling haven’t been put to the test by someone as well versed in those areas as Makhachev. He successfully navigated a pair of tight squeezes during the course of his dominant title defense against Brian Ortega, and was taken down for a handful of seconds by Chad Mendes earlier in his career, but for the most part, Volkanovski’s fights have remained on the feet, where he’s continued to develop and shine.

FREE FIGHT: Islam Makhachev vs Charles Oliveira

But now that he has the lightweight title around his waist, Makhachev has set his sights on claiming the title as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, and that means beating Volkanovski this weekend in Perth.

“To become best pound-for-pound fighter in the world is so important for me because there is nothing more than this in this sport,” said Makhachev. “This is a dream for all fighters — there is nothing more than pound-for-pound king; that’s why it is my target and my dream.

UFC 284: Makhachev vs Volkanovski

And while he believes his wrestling and grappling, combined with the hard hours logged in preparation for this weekend’s contest, will be enough to bring him a victory, the reigning lightweight champion also thinks Volkanovski has an unfavorable precedent working against him as well.

“For me, it doesn’t matter about size because I always fight with big guys or short guys, but for him, it’s going to be big trouble because he’s coming to a new division, and his teammate (Israel) Adesanya showed him a bad example,” Makhachev said with a smirk on his face. “He also tried to fight for the second belt, but he lost.

“Now Volkanovski tries to fight for the second belt, and the same destiny is waiting for him.”

UFC 284: Makhachev vs Volkanovski took place live from RAC Arena in Perth, Western Australia on February 11, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive all the action on UFC Fight Pass