Fighters like Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski are what make MMA so great

Alexander Volkanovski (L) and Islam Makhachev embrace after their title fight at UFC 284 that Makhachev won by decision. On Oct. 21, they’ll rematch at UFC 294 after Volkanovski accepted a bout on 11 days’ notice. (Chris Unger/Getty Images) (Chris Unger via Getty Images)

Injuries are an unfortunate aspect of the fight game, and when they occur before significant bouts, they can pose a threat to the entire card. In boxing, if a prominent fighter were to sustain a severe injury just days before a pay-per-view event, the entire card would be scrapped.

However, in a remarkable turn of events, UFC 294 not only survived the loss of Charles Oliveira, the former lightweight champion who had to withdraw from his Oct. 21 fight against champion Islam Makhachev in Abu Dhabi due to a cut, but it actually became even more compelling.

Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski stepped in on just 11 days’ notice to face Makhachev in the main event, setting up a rematch of their incredibly close fight at UFC 284, which Makhachev won by a narrow margin.

UFC president Dana White spoke about how easily Volkanovski agreed to the fight, saying, “It took one phone call.” Despite losing the previous fight on the scorecards, many believed Volkanovski should have won, and he remains ranked ahead of Makhachev in the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings. Volkanovski is ranked second, behind heavyweight champion Jon Jones, while Makhachev sits at third. Oliveira, the fighter originally scheduled to face Makhachev, is ranked fifth.

The UFC’s success as the premier MMA promotion in the world can be attributed to its efficient business operations and its ability to create enticing matchups. However, it’s important not to lose sight of the incredible feats these fighters accomplish on a nightly basis. The willingness of both Volkanovski and Makhachev to accept this high-stakes fight on short notice is rare in combat sports.

By agreeing to fight each other, Makhachev and Volkanovski ultimately saved the event from cancellation. Makhachev’s immediate response to the news of Oliveira’s withdrawal demonstrates his determination to defend his belt and prove himself as the best lightweight in the world. Makhachev remarked, “Who cares who is going to be there? If Jon Jones can make 155, let’s go.”

The presence of a back-up fighter like Mateusz Gamrot, who was confirmed as a potential replacement for this fight, is crucial in situations like these. While a fight between Gamrot and Makhachev would have preserved the event, it would have lacked the same excitement and anticipation as a rematch with Volkanovski.

It’s worth noting that in the UFC, underdogs like Sean Strickland have proven that they can win championships against all odds. This is a testament to the exceptional matchmaking by individuals like Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard. However, it’s the fighters themselves who take the extraordinary risks and show immense bravery. It is only fair to acknowledge the challenges faced by Volkanovski in preparing for this fight without a full training camp.

Regardless, both fighters eagerly accepted the opportunity without hesitation. Makhachev emphasized, “What does this title represent? It means you’re the best in the world. And if you are the best in the world, it doesn’t matter who is going to be there across from you. What could I say? No? Never. Let’s do it.”

The fearless attitudes of fighters like Makhachev and Volkanovski are representative of the entire UFC roster and the sport as a whole. While it may have been easier to postpone or cancel the fight, these individuals do not take the easy way out. Their unwavering dedication is a large part of what makes them the best in their respective divisions and contributes to the continued growth and excitement of the sport.


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