‘Lightweight definitely in the near future’

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Alexander Volkanovski hasn’t given up on his lightweight hopes.

Featherweight champion Volkanovski (26-3 MMA, 13-2 UFC) lost to lightweight champion Islam Makhachev a second time at UFC 294, this time by knockout when he stepped in on short notice this past October in Abu Dhabi.

Volkanovski, 35, defends his title against Ilia Topuria (14-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) in UFC 298 headliner Feb. 17 at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Despite falling short to Makhachev twice, Volkanovski has not put 155 pounds on the back burner.

“Definitely not,” Volkanovski said during the UFC 298 pre-fight press conference in Sydney (h/t MacLife). “Obviously straight after – I’m a realist. I’m not expecting a rematch straight away. Everyone’s going to see that. They’re going to be like ‘the age thing’ and all that. There’s going to be some people doubting. ‘Is his time done?’ – which is hyping up this fight, so I’m all good with it.

“But, everybody’s going to be reminded, and everybody is going to be switching a full 180 (degrees) saying there’s nothing left for me at 145, and they want me to go take that lightweight belt. That’s what I plan on doing. I’m going to go out there take care of Ilia and we’ll see what’s next, but lightweight definitely in the near future.”

If Volkanovski can bounce Topuria out of the ranks of the unbeaten at UFC 298, he could consider lightweight next if there’s no clear-cut contender at 145 pounds.

“I like having a clear guy, which is Topuria right now – which is unreal,” Volkanovski said. “But as I said earlier, lightweights are obviously there, so that’s probably something that I’ll look to because I’ll want to fight a few times this year, as well. Who’s next? I don’t know.

“Obviously you’ve got guys like Movsar (Evloev), who’s undefeated and all that. But it just needs to be clear. There’s guys who won’t be too far off, but time will tell who’s there. But while we’re figuring that out, we’ll have some fun fights at lightweight, maybe.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 298.

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