ABU DHABI – Magomed Ankalaev believes he needs a significant change to elevate his career to the next level. However, this change isn’t merely technical.
Ankalaev (18-1-1 MMA, 9-1-1 UFC) is set to make his return to the octagon this Saturday on the main card of UFC 294. He will face off against Johnny Walker in a pivotal light heavyweight matchup.
This bout with Walker (21-7 MMA, 7-4 UFC) marks Ankalaev’s first fight since his controversial split draw against Jan Błachowicz for the vacant UFC light heavyweight title in December 2022.
Following the fight, Ankalaev faced criticism from both UFC CEO Dana White and fans for not delivering an exciting performance. The Russian fighter now understands the significance of that criticism and vows to fight with more aggression in his comeback.
“After rewatching the fight multiple times, it’s unquestionable that I emerged as the winner. However, I realize that it’s not just about winning. It’s about putting on a show,” Ankalaev explained during Wednesday’s UFC 294 media day. “We’ve put in a lot of work and rectified our mistakes. I’m ready to showcase thrilling fights and not merely secure victories but finish fights before the final bell.”
Ankalaev also faced criticism from Walker in the buildup to UFC 294. The Brazilian fighter claimed that Ankalaev lacks emotion and doesn’t do enough to promote himself.
Ankalaev attributed this partly to his limited English proficiency but acknowledged that he can also do more in terms of generating buzz outside the cage. In addition to fighting more aggressively, Ankalaev promises to be more outspoken on the microphone.
“I understand that doing something outrageous garners attention, and I’m starting to realize that it’s necessary moving forward,” Ankalaev stated. “We’re working on it. We’re working on something, so you can expect a spectacle soon.”
For more information about the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 294.
Sarah Foster is your guide to the world of Mixed Martial Arts. With a deep understanding of MMA’s intricacies and a passion for the sport, she offers comprehensive coverage of MMA events, fighter profiles, and in-depth analysis of fights. Sarah’s commitment to the octagon ensures that readers stay engaged with the latest developments in the MMA world.