Much has been made of Ian Machado Garry’s widely-publicized split from Birmingham gym Team Renegade, but despite the parting of the ways, one of the staples of the gym has come out to defend the Irishman in response to some of the comments thrown at him ahead of his bout at UFC 296.

Machado Garry is all set to face Vicente Luque in Las Vegas this weekend, and rather than base his training out of one gym, he has preferred to take a nomadic approach to sharpening his skills. One of his stops was at Team Renegade, but he was eventually asked not to return to the gym as he did not fit the culture of the Birmingham team, which is home to UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards, who is in action in the main event on Saturday night.

The split has generated plenty of column inches, but Team Renegade lightweight prospect and rising 155-pound contender Akonne Wanliss has looked to set the record straight regarding Machado Garry.

“Everyone is going at him, I’ve seen Sean Strickland have a pop at him and I have absolutely no idea how we have ended up here!” he said.

“To be honest, I think Ian Garry is a lovely guy, but something has gone wrong where he seems to have said a few things and got himself in trouble somewhere. For everyone going at his wife as well, I think that is absolutely crazy and it is getting really out of hand.”

Wanliss is an integral part of the Team Renegade lineup, and trains alongside Leon and Fabian Edwards, as well as Tom Breese, at the Birmingham gym. While he said he likes Machado Garry, Wanliss said that he respects the decision of the head coaches to part ways with “The Future.”

“I feel like he is an awesome guy and he has got great talent,” Wanliss said.

“If he doesn’t fit the gym, then we have to protect the culture and I understand the decision – I’m a prospect in the gym – so if someone comes in and doesn’t fit that, then I respect the decision.”

As for his Team Renegade teammate Leon Edwards, Wanliss said that his colleague is going to produce a stellar performance in the headline bout against former interim champion Colby Covington.

“Leon is firing on all cylinders and I feel like this is Leon’s era,” he stated.

“I can see Leon dominating Colby wherever the fight goes and I can see a stoppage coming as well – he’s too lethal, too sharp and too strong.

“We know Colby is going to try and come in and grapple and by around round three, you’ll start to see Leon break him down then you’ll get a finish – savagely.”

While his teammate is looking to cement his status as the world’s top welterweight, Wanliss has big goals for his own career. “The Jedi” picked up a 127-second knockout on his promotional debut at Oktagon 45, but his momentum took a hit when a flying knee accidentally caught Jakub Bahnik in the groin at Oktagon 48 in Manchester. It meant his second fight for the promotion ended in a no-contest.

But, despite that small setback, Wanliss has a big challenge ahead of him for 2024. He has been named in Oktagon’s 155-pound Tipsport Gamechanger pyramid tournament, and will battle it out with some of the best lightweights in Europe in a bid to capture the tournament title. His first bout will be at Oktagon 54 in Ostrava, where the tournament will get underway on March 2. It’s a challenge he’s looking forward to attacking with relish.

“I’m feeling really grateful, to be honest,” he said.

“The pride hasn’t set in yet because I know there is a lot of work to do. Right now, I’m hungry and energized because I am at the start of camp for the tournament.

“I feel like ever since Manchester, I’ve been desperate to get back in there and fight. I’m so happy I am going to be in the Tipsport Gamechanger because people have to fight me, no one is going to slow me down by ducking or not taking fights – they have to feel the Force.

“I’m going to have at least four fights here, no one can say no to fighting me and I can become a millionaire – what more could I ask for?

“(Ronald) Paradeiser is the man to beat in this tournament, even though I can’t take his belt in this format. I saw Makwan’s last fight in the UFC – if that is the sort of performance he is going to bring to this, then I am really not that worried about him at all.

“In 12 months’ time, I want to be a millionaire, recognized as the pound-for-pound number one, and officially crowned the best lightweight in Europe – those are my goals!”