Volkanovski says he's still UFC No 1 and wants Makhachev rematch to prove it

Featherweight champion defeated by unanimous decision in thrilling headline bout at UFC 284 on Sunday

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Alexander Volkanovski believes he is still the pound-for-pound No 1 male fighter in the UFC, and has called for an immediate rematch with Islam Makhachev so he can prove it.

The featherweight champion lost narrowly to the welterweight belt-holder in a gripping contest at 155lbs at UFC 284 in Perth, Australia, on Sunday after moving up a division to chase "double-champ" status.

Volkanovski, who went into the bout at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings, lost by unanimous decision to the then-No 2 – his first defeat in 23 professional fights.

The Australian, 25-2 in pro MMA, said after the bout that he watched it back and felt he won Rounds 2, 3 and 5.

On Monday night, Volkanovski doubled down on that opinion, telling The MMA Hour that he still felt he deserved to be regarded as the sport’s No 1 male athlete. When the updated rankings where later released, he remained at the summit.

“A lot of people thought I won that fight; I thought I won that fight, and I moved up,” Volkanovski said. “We’re talking about pound-for-pound. Imagine if we were in the same weight class.

“I don’t want to be that guy, but if he was just a featherweight in my division, I’d squash him… it’s a walk in the park. No offence to him, but that’s legit.

“I think I still proved I’m the better fighter and I’m pound-for-pound No. 1. But that’s not up to me.”

Volkanovski, already regarded by many as the greatest featherweight of all-time, gave Makhachev the toughest test to date of his 25-fight pro career, with the Dagestani conceding as much afterwards.

Volkanovski is expected to next step back down to 145 lbs to defend his title against new interim champion Yair Rodriguez, but said an immediate rematch against Makhachev should happen to settle any lingering doubts as to who is the superior fighter.

“Yeah, 100 per cent,” Volkanovski said. “He’s already talked to the press that he wants to do the rematch. He went back to his corner [after the fight] before they announced who the winner was - obviously it was a close fight - but I think he thought he might’ve lost.

“He was even saying he needs a rematch to his corner when he went back to his corner. He thought he lost… he knows. I’m not taking anything away. It was a close fight.”

Speaking following the victory on Sunday, Makhachev denied he had told his corner he thought the decision would go to Volkanovski. Now boasting the longest active win streak in the UFC (12), Makhachev said he will wait to hear from Dana White, the promotion's president, as to whom he fights next.

Volkanovski, whose own legitimacy as featherweight champion was questioned following two close wins against former champion Max Holloway – he then won the trilogy bout convincingly - said of his chances of a rematch with Makhachev: “I think it depends on him. He knows that this is going to leave a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.

“I’ve been there before. I know what it feels like, and he’s going to want to prove it to people. I would if I was in his position. I wouldn’t be happy with that. If he doesn’t [want the rematch], we know why.”

Updated: March 01, 2023, 1:34 PM