Islam Makhachev has a new opponent for UFC 294, with the reigning UFC lightweight champion set to face reigning UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski in a champion-versus-champion rematch in Abu Dhabi.
Makhachev was all set to face former champion Charles Oliveira in the main event on October 21 in Abu Dhabi. But now, following news of Oliveira’s enforced withdrawal from the bout due to injury, the Russian champion will take on a different rematch with Volkanovski stepping up on 11 days’ notice.
The pair first met back in February at UFC 284, where Volkanovski pushed Makhachev all the way to the scorecards, and was arguably in the ascendancy as the fight came to a close. Makhachev took the win on the judges’ scorecards, but to many observers, the featherweight champion left the Octagon with a moral victory after proving to be the Russian’s equal, despite a significant size difference between the pair.
Volkanovski made clear his intention to rematch Makhachev, but after the lightweight champ was matched with Oliveira, it was expected that Volkanovski would face Ilia Topuria in a featherweight title defense in early 2024 before a potential summer rematch with Makhachev. Now that bout is set for October 21.
The news was confirmed by UFC CEO Dana White during the post-fight press conference after Dana White’s Contender Series, with the UFC boss revealing that a nasty cut sustained by Oliveira in his final round of sparring in Brazil scuppered “Do Bronx’s” participation in the event.
“Round five of sparring last night, before he’s supposed to jump on a plane today, (he) splits his eyebrow wide open,” White explained.
“(He) had it stitched up last night and obviously can’t fly out there with that, you know what I mean?
“It would be one thing too, they didn’t call us. We’d have (had) them go to a plastic surgeon that would have sewed it from the inside out, you know, get that thing done the right way. These guys never call us like they should when something happens. They call us after they get it stitched up. But, on the flip side, too, I could see him not wanting to risk it, getting a shot like this.”
White paid tribute to Volkanovski for agreeing to take the fight on short notice, but was less complimentary of the people around Oliviera for leaking the news before he was able to discuss the situation with the event’s hosts in Abu Dhabi.
“The Volkanovski crew – I mean, him and Israel (Adesanya). These guys are just absolute studs, man. He jumps in and he accepts the fight.
“One phone call, and I would have announced it hours ago, except I was waiting for the guys to wake up in Abu Dhabi to let them know before we reported it.
“But these guys that surround these guys down in Brazil can’t keep their f*****g mouth shut. This came out of Oliveira’s camp, apparently, it’s just part of the f*****g business, you know what I mean?
“I would have liked to have talked to the powers that be in Abu Dhabi before it got announced, but people can’t keep their f*****g mouth shut for whatever reason. They want to act like they’re in the know and make these phone calls. So, here we are.”
But, despite Oliveira’s unfortunate late withdrawal, and thanks to Volkanovski’s willingness to step in on short notice, the UFC is able to pivot to a new main event, with a blockbuster champion-versus-champion rematch heading to the Etihad Arena on October 21.
“That’s how we do it,” said White.
“One fight falls out, and we end up making a fight that, it’s one of the most anticipated rematches ever in that weight class. So, fun!”
UFC 294: Amended fight card
- Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Volkanovski – for lightweight title
- Paulo Costa vs. Khamzat Chimaev
- Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker
- Nassourdine Imavov vs Ikram Aliskerov
- Said Nurmagomedov vs. Muin Gafurov
- Tim Elliott vs. Muhammad Mokaev
- Muhammad Yayha vs. Trevor Peek
- Javid Basharat vs. Victor Henry
- Abu Azaitar vs. Sedriques Dumas
- Mike Breeden vs. Anshul Jubli
- Nathaniel Wood vs. Muhammadjon Naimov
- Viktoriia Dudakova vs. Jinh Yu Frey
- Shara Magomedov vs. Bruno Silva