UFC 294: Islam Makhachev buries fake champ Jon Jones

Islam Makhachev is set to defend his belt at UFC 294

UFC 294 is set to go down this Saturday, October 21st, at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. There lightweight champion Islam Makhachev will defend his UFC title for the second time against Aussie featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski. The event had been set to showcase a re-match between Makhachev and former title holder Charles Oliveira instead, but a late injury to Oliveira forced a short notice opponent change.

The first fight between Volkanovski and Makhachev proved to be a closely contested affair with Makhachev having suprising success on his feet early against the City Kickboxing talent, only to struggle late on the mats as Volkanovski surged and the longtime AKA trained fighter started to tire. Volkanovski’s performance was strong enough that some even claim he should have had the win.

“I think you could make a real argument that [Volkanovski] won that fight,” UFC commentator Joe Rogan said on a recent podcast episode. “I think he won the fight. In my mind, he won the fight.”

“He did more damage. I think he imposed his skill set. It’s also insanely impressive that he goes up from (featherweight) to fight a massive (lightweight). That guy is as big at (155 pounds) as anybody is, and at the end of the fight, (Volkanovski) is on top beating him up.”

Nonetheless, the Dagestani exited the Octagon with his hand raised that night, marking the 12th straight victory for the Khabib Nurmagomedov disciple. A winning streak that includes names like Bobby Green, Dan Hooker, Drew Dober, and Arman Tsarukyan, alongside his aforementioned victories over Oliveira and Volkanovski.

Makhchev outlines what makes a ‘real champion’

Islam Makhachev was at his pre-fight press conference for UFC 294 yesterday. While there he took time out of previewing his upcoming fight to talk about one of his favorite subjects, Jon Jones and the pound-for-pound rankings.

“This is what a UFC champion has to do,” Makhachev said (ht MMA Fighting). “Like a real champion. If you’re a real champion you have to take the fight, it doesn’t matter how many days, who it’s going to be, not like your pound-for-pound champion [Jon Jones] when they gave him Chael Sonnen. When you’re a real champion, you have to fight.”

At this point that’s a pretty deep cut. Jon Jones was scheduled to face Dan Henderson way back at UFC 151 in 2012. Henderson had been injured through training camp, but had hoped to make it to the fight. Unfortunately, that plan broke down at the last minute, with Henderson pulling out and the UFC hoping to swap in Chael Sonnen in his place on just three days notice.

With Greg Jackson firmly at his side, Jones and his team turned down the bout. Forever garnering him the moniker of ‘sport killer.’

“This is one of the most selfish, disgusting decisions that doesn’t just affect you,” Dana White told reporters of Jones’ decision. “This is affecting 16 other lives, their families, kids are going back to school. The list goes on and on of all the things, the money that was spent for fighters to train and the list goes on and on. Like I said, I don’t think this is going to make Jon Jones popular with the fans, sponsors, cable distributors, television network executives or other fighters.”

So why is Makhachev still hung up on all this ancient history now? A decade later, when the sport is still alive and well? Mostly it’s because a still active Jon Jones is sitting two spots above him in the number 1 seat on the UFC’s current pound-for-pound rankings. Jones grabbed heavyweight gold back in March with a quick submission win over Ciryl Gane. He’s now scheduled to face former champion Stipe Miocic in Madison Square Garden next month.

“They put [Jon Jones] No. 1 [pound-for-pound]. Who has he beat his last five fights?” Makhachev said. “He don’t have some names from top pound-for-pound rankings. I just want to say about the rankings, all these things, this is bulls*** and I am not following anymore.

“Because last time I beat [Alexander Volkanovski], No. 2 versus No. 1. If you beat No. 2, you have to be No. 1 but I don’t know who makes the rankings.”

Despite claiming that he’s had to go the rougher path to greatness (at least in recent years), Makhachev isn’t about to give his opponents any extra credit for being some of the best in the world. To hear him tell it, he’s got no pressure on his back heading into UFC 294, short notice or no.

“I don’t have any pressure,” Makhachev said. “Because I am a champion. It doesn’t matter who it’s going to be in front of me.

“But I agree this guy doesn’t have any pressure. He comes [to fight] on 11 days’ [notice], I already beat him and if I beat him again, people are going to say he came on short notice, not in good shape, something like this. For me, I just step to the cage, finish this guy, that’s it.”

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Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim’s specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

Tim is also BE’s lead (only) sumo reporter. He blogs about that sport here and on his own substack, Sumo Stomp!

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