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‘He can hold that flag until I’m there’ — Volkanovski says Rodríguez can defend interim title

With an immediate rematch against Islam Makhachev on his mind, the UFC featherweight champion says Rodríguez may have to defend the interim title in his absence. 

Alexander Volkanovski after UFC 284.
Alexander Volkanovski after UFC 284.
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

After losing to Islam Makhachev at UFC 284 this past Saturday, Alexander Volkanovski set his sights on his next opponent: Yair Rodríguez.

Earlier that night, Rodríguez became the interim UFC featherweight champion after subbing Josh Emmett with a triangle choke. For ‘El Pantera’ and the ‘Great,’ their next fight should be a title unification, which Volkanovski said would happen in his post-fight interview.

“Let’s just get it f—king over and done with, said Volkanovski. “I want to get back in. I said I was going to stay active. Just cause I pulled up short tonight, that doesn’t change a thing. I’m a man of my word. I’ll be back in the lightweight division, but for now, let me go and settle this featherweight division. Congrats to Yair, and now we build up a big featherweight fight. Let’s go.”

However, after rewatching his fight with Makhachev, the UFC featherweight champion has requested an immediate rematch. Of course, that would delay a return to his original division, but the 34-year-old said on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani that if he extends his stay at lightweight, Rodríguez should keep featherweight active.

“What’s the point of the interim anyway then? You know what I mean? Isn’t the interim — let’s talk about this because I don’t know,” said Volkanovski. “Obviously, if I was the champ and I did do this lightweight thing, that’s why we’re doing the interim as well, right? Because we don’t want to hold divisions up so then he’s [Rodriguez] gonna be the guy looking after that while I’m going up and all this type of stuff.

“I don’t feel like — he can hold that flag until I’m there,” continued Volkanovski. “If I need to settle this beef [with Makhachev] and all that type of stuff. I need to talk to the team and see what’s next. Whatever decision we make is gonna be more than okay. There’s no reason why this has to happen right now, especially when that’s just not how interim works. Otherwise, I would have just made him fight for the No. 1 contender or whatever. They wouldn’t have to put an interim up for grabs and things like that.”

Though he could delay his unification, Volkanovski looks forward to the new challenge Rodríguez brings when they face each other.

“Yair, he’s very crafty,” said Volkanovski. “Obviously, on the feet and very crafty everywhere. It’s exciting because he’s an exciting fighter. He’s built that up, too, so I like that.”

About the author: Kristen King is a writer for Bloody Elbow. She has covered combat sports since 2016. (full bio)

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