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


Alexander Volkanovski (left) and Islam Makhachev embrace after their title fight at UFC 284, which Makhachev ultimately won. On October 21, Volkanovski accepted the fight on 11 days’ notice for a rematch at UFC 294. (Chris Unger/) (Chris Unger via )

Injuries are a part of boxing, especially when the fight is huge, and a serious injury can threaten the entire card. In boxing, when it’s a pay-per-view, the entire card is built around the main event.

So if Canelo Alvarez suffered a giant crescent-shaped cut above his right eye 12 days before the fight, like the UFC’s Charles Oliveira did on Monday night, then nothing Question: The entire card will be invalid.

Somehow, though, UFC 294 not only survived the loss of former lightweight champion Oliveira (who was forced to withdraw from his Oct. 21 fight against champion Islam Makhachev in Abu Dhabi), And the game somehow got better.

Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski agreed to step in with 11 days’ notice and face Makhachev in the main event of UFC 294, a rematch of the phenomenal fight from UFC 284 , Makhachev won by a narrow margin.

“It was just a phone call away,” UFC president Dana White said of getting Volkanovski on board.

Despite the loss on the record, many believed Volkanovski won the fight and therefore remains ahead of Makhachev in the UFC’s weight rankings. Volkanovski is ranked second behind heavyweight champion Jon Jones and Makhachev is ranked third. Oliveira finished fifth.

The UFC is the most successful MMA promotion in the world because it brings together the best business operations and because it knows how to (as White said) set up all the bells and whistles to make fights more engaging.

But don’t let that distract from the obvious point here: It’s incredible what these fighters do every night, especially Volkanovski and Makhachev taking on such massive competition What was done in such a short period of time in most battles is extremely rare.

By everyone saying “yes” – Makhachev agreeing to fight Volkanovski, and Volkanovski agreeing to fight on less than two weeks’ notice – it really saved This drama.

At 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Makhachev woke up for morning prayers and received a message from his agent, Ali Abdelaziz, telling him that Oliveira was absent. Makhachev’s eyes were still sleepy, and he didn’t hesitate.

“He said, ‘Your opponent is out. They’re looking for someone new,'” Makhachev told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday. “I sent him a message and I said, ‘Just find someone who makes 155 pounds.'”

Islam Makhachev will have a chance to finish the job he started on Alexander Volkanovski when they meet in the main event of UFC 294 on October 21. (Chris Unger/) (Chris Unger via )

He doesn’t care if it’s Volkanovski, Mateusz Gamrot or any other top contender. He is determined to defend his belt and prove that he is the best lightweight in the world.

“I’ve been training for the past three months, very hard, very hard,” Makhachev said. “Who cares who’s going to be there? If Jon Jones can hit 155, let’s go.”

When White confirmed Gamrot would be the backup for this game about a week ago, it made him the obvious replacement in this situation. That’s the whole point of backup. Yes, this card can be saved if Gamrot enters the battle, but this card will be drained of a lot of energy. Oliveira lost to Makhachev and was given a chance to regain the title. With all due respect to Gamrot, the fight between him and Makhachev held little cachet at the moment.

Yes, Sean Strickland proved at UFC 293 that even a major underdog can win a title. Such is the pairing quality of this promotion. The work of matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard has always been exemplary, and they, along with White and UFC chief commercial officer Hunter Campbell, have consistently performed well in the fights they organize.

However, the warriors were the ones who took great risks to save it. If Makhachev puts in a strong performance and beats Volkanovski cleanly, he won’t get the credit he deserves. Volkanovski’s victory will be undermined by the fact that he has essentially no camp. At some point before the fight, when the fighters were getting close to starting their tapers, Volkanovski had to step up and prepare specifically for Makhachev.

But everyone agreed without hesitation.

“Do you know what this title means?” Makhachev asked. “It means you’re the best in the world. If you’re the best in the world, it doesn’t matter who’s across from you. What can I say? No? Never. Let’s do it.”

This attitude permeates the UFC’s 700-plus fighter roster and the sport as a whole.

The best approach is probably to wait, cancel or at least postpone the fight, but that’s the easiest way out. Neither Islam Makhachev nor Alex Volkanovski are looking for the easy way out.

That’s a big reason why they’re the best in their category, and why this still-growing, still-evolving sport is so amazing.

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