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Alex Volkanovski excited to solve Dagestani wrestling puzzle against ‘unstoppable’ Islam Makhachev

Alexander Volkanovski: Islam Makhachev represents the toughest challenge of my career.

UFC 284 Media Opportunity
Alexander Volkanovski hits the bag at UFC GYM in Sydney, Australia.
Photo by Brendon Thorne/Zuffa LLC

Alexander Volkanovski is determined to become the first fighter to solve the Dagestani wrestling puzzle that Islam Makhachev presents in their upcoming lightweight title fight at UFC 284.

The winner of this bout will be crowned the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, making it a particularly significant matchup for both fighters.

Speaking to Michael Bisping in a recent interview (h/t Alexander K. Lee), Volkanovski explained why beating Makhachev is more important to him than attaining champ-champ status. He described Makhachev, who many believe is unbeatable, as the toughest challenge of his career.

“No disrespect to them, but that’s why this fight is so big to me,” Volkanovski said on a recent episode of Believe You Me. “It’s the Dagestani wrestling, no one can figure this out, they’re on a roll and all that. Khabib’s there. Islam, what he’s been doing his last few fights. All that. I was chasing the champ-champ, that’s what motivated me before I knew who I was fighting. As soon as Islam won and the people talked, something was just like, bang, that’s all that I cared about is taking out Islam.

“It wasn’t even disrespect. All that stuff just made this fight so much bigger. Me accomplishing this goal — not only the champ-champ, it’s obviously going to be incredible, having two belts — but not just that. It’s, while doing that, taking out someone like Islam. Especially being a featherweight going to move up to lightweight, then fighting not only any lightweight, you’re going to Dagestani-wrestling Islam who’s known to just walk and control and throw around all these lightweights. ‘How’s Alex going to deal with that?’

“This just makes when I get my hand raised, it just makes it so much bigger. So that’s what’s motivating me right now, the fight itself. It’s going to be extra special getting both belts on them shoulders, but [also] who I’m taking out in the process.”

“Pound-for-pound and all that, it’s really good, champ-champ,” he added. “But I was really chasing him because you knock off your goals, what’s next, what’s next, the champ-champ’s next, but as soon as it was Islam and people telling me — I love people doubting me.

“Seeing people, like, ‘He’s going to be too big, too strong,’ and all this. The challenge, the opponent that I’ve got, that excites me more. Going for this champ-champ and taking out someone like Islam is really what people are going to remember. A lot of people think he’s unstoppable right now, but I’m going to show you that he is stoppable and I can’t wait to go out there and do my thing.”

It will be interesting to see how Volkanovski’s skills translate to the lightweight division and whether he will be able to neutralize Makhachev’s seemingly unstoppable wrestling.

UFC 284, which features Makhachev vs. Volkanovski as the main event, is scheduled to take place on Feb. 12 at the RAC Arena in Perth, Australia.