UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev is set to ignite the Octagon once more in a highly-anticipated rematch against reigning featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.
He was originally slated to face Charles Oliveira in the UFC 294 headliner, but an injury during sparring led Volkanovski to step in.
Their first encounter at UFC 284 marked a historic moment in the promotion’s 30-year history. It was the first time that the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked competitors in the world clashed.
After 25 minutes of intense action, the No. 2 ranked competitor Makhachev clinched a unanimous decision victory. But the match resulted in a huge controversy as many believed that Volkanovski did enough to defeat Makhachev.
After his return, UFC heavyweight champion Jon Jones surged back to claim the No. 1 spot, pushing Volkanovski to No. 2 and Makhachev to No. 3. Voicing his discontent at Wednesday’s UFC 294 media day, Makhachev expressed his frustration at Jones’ top-ranking due to his scarce appearances in the past five years.
Makhachev asserted: “If you’re a real champion, you have to take fight, doesn’t matter how many days, who it’s going to be. Not like your pound-for-pound champion when they give him Chael Sonnen. If you’re a real champion, you have to fight.”
“They put him (Jon Jones) No.1, the No. 1 guy right now, (but) who he beat in his last five fights? We don’t have some names in the top pound-for-pound rankings. I just want to say about the rankings and all these things, this is bullsh*t, and I’m not following anymore.”
In response to Makhachev’s remarks, Jon Jones took to social media and offered well-wishes to the lightweight king.
He stated, “I wish you all the best Habibi @MAKHACHEVMMA.”
In a subsequent post, Jones clarified his stance.
He tweeted: “As far as the fight, may the best man win. I was just talking about in life. Islam made some negative comments recently. No need for me to respond with negativity. I have bigger fish to fry right now.”
On the other hand, Irish MMA icon Conor McGregor took a different route in response to Makhachev’s comments.
McGregor stated, “This guy is a gumbeen, This is what happens when cousins have sex and have a child together. This is the result.”
McGregor’s reaction might not surprise many, given his feud with Makhachev’s mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov. Their showdown at UFC 229 culminated in Khabub securing a fourth-round rear naked choke submission against McGregor. This event still holds the record for the highest-grossing pay-per-view in promotional history, amassing 2.4 million buys.