Islam Makhachev promises to deliver career-best performance at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi

Fan favourite lightweight champion vows to put on a show against Volkanovski for his UAE supporters

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Lightweight champion Islam Makhachev has vowed to show his best ever display when he takes on Alexander Volkanovski in the highly anticipated headline rematch at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

The Dagestani, who rides a 12-fight winning streak, defends his title against the current featherweight champion for the second time in eight months, when the pair go head-to-head at Etihad Arena.

On Friday, after the duo made the bout official in the morning, the two combatants took to the scales in front of a loud and lively crowd at Etihad Arena for the ceremonial weigh-ins.

Speaking onstage, fan favourite Makhachev said: “Abu Dhabi, good to see you again. Tomorrow, I will show you my best performance. Thank you all you guys, because I know you all support me.”

Makhachev, a regular visitor to the UAE, has fought three times in the capital, and boasts a 100 per cent record. Last October, at UFC 280, he defeated Charles Oliveira in Etihad Arena to capture the lightweight crown for the first time.

Makhachev, 24-1, was initially slated to rematch the Brazilian on Saturday, but Oliveira was forced to withdraw through injury. Subsequently, Volkanovski stepped in to replace the former champion on 11 days’ notice.

UFC 294 therefore offers the Australian the opportunity to avenge his defeat to Makhachev in Perth in February. Back then, Makhachev triumphed via unanimous decision to retain his belt – it represented Volkanovski’s first defeat in 23 pro contests – although the bout was a closely fought five-round affair.

Speaking before Makhachev took the mic on Friday, Volkanovski said: “I feel great. This is going to be incredible. Obviously, February was one of the greatest fights there was. And now it’s Round 6.

"Everyone’s in for a treat. Let’s get it.”

Some of the most vociferous cheers at Friday evening's weigh-in were reserved for the unbeaten Khamzat Chimaev, who meets in the co-main event late stand-in, and former welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, and fast-rising flyweight Muhammad Mokaev. Mokaev, 10-0, puts his undefeated record on the line against American veteran Tim Elliott.

Meanwhile, history was made on Friday as UAE athlete Mohammed Yahya stepped on to the scales ahead of his bout against American Trevor Peek. The Dubai-based lightweight, 12-3, will become the first Emirati to compete in the UFC.

Updated: October 20, 2023, 4:24 PM