Topuria (14-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) impressed this past Saturday when he extended his unbeaten run with a unanimous decision win over Josh Emmett in the UFC on ABC 5 main event. The fight was so lopsided it had a 50-42 scorecard in Topuria’s favor, and afterward he called for a shot at the 145-pound belt.
First, however, reigning champion Volkanovski (25-2 MMA, 12-1 UFC) is scheduled to meet interim champ Yair Rodriguez (15-3 MMA, 10-2 UFC) in a title unification bout in the UFC 290 headliner, which takes place July 8 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ABC, ESPN and ESPN+.
Topuria has already stated he hopes Volkanovski emerged from the fight as undisputed champ, and would even be willing to travel to Australia to challenge “The Great.” There’s a debate about whether Topuria has done enough to warrant a crack at gold, but with Volkanovski having already beaten many of the top divisional contenders, the champ is warm the matchup.
“I’m hearing a lot of people mentioning other guys, Ilia fighting other guys – I’m like, ‘No,’” Volkanovski said during an interview on “DC & RC” with Daniel Cormier and Ryan Clark. “Don’t do it. Just give me a guy. Give me a contender. To be honest, I’m not going to say too much. I think he’s a good fighter. But the more I speak, the less I’m going to hype up the fight. I think he’s great.”
Volkanovski, 34, stopped short of discrediting Topuria’s win on any level. However, he admits he sees a path to shutting down some of the things that have made Topuria, 26, successful.
Ultimately, Volkanovski knows he must focus on Rodriguez because it’s the task at hand, but he made it clear he would prefer for Topuria to be next in line, rather than fight another contender.
“I think it’s a great fight and that would work well on some people, but won’t work well on others,” Volkanovski said. “I want (new) guys. I want to be active. I was at a stage where I was like, ‘Give me the No. 1 guy.’ We’ve sort of cleared them. Everyone’s raving on about this guy. I’ve got Yair to worry about. I’ll worry about that first, because I see him as a much bigger threat than Ilia. I’ll make sure I go out there and do my business, and if that’s on the cards – again, I want to be active.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 290.