Alexander Volkanovski sees Ilia Topuria as next potential title challenger: ‘Just give me a guy’

Alexander Volkanovski sees himself with at least two exciting options with a victory at UFC 290.

In his most recent outing, Volkanovski lost a close unanimous decision at UFC 284 when he moved up to challenge lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, and while he has repeatedly stated he’d like another shot at Makhachev, the emergence of undefeated contender Ilia Topuria this past weekend at UFC Jacksonville has seemingly given Volkanovski his next potential featherweight opponent.

“I’m hearing a lot of people mentioning other guys, Ilia fighting other guys,” Volkanovski said on ESPN’s DC & RC. “I’m like, ‘No, don’t do it. Just give me a guy. Give me a contender.’ To be honest, again, I’m not going to say too much, obviously 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.”

First, the featherweight champion defends his title in a unification bout against Yair Rodriguez in the July 8 main event. A victory would mean Volkanovski’s fifth straight successful title defense and keep him undefeated at 145 pounds.

Following Topuria’s impressive win over Josh Emmett this past Saturday, the Georgian-Spanish star confidently stated he will be the one to end Volkanovski’s dominant reign, though he added that if the UFC could set up a marquee matchup with former champion Max Holloway in Spain, he couldn’t say no to that opportunity.

If it were up to Volkanovski, it sounds like he’d rather they keep the path clear for Topuria so that he has his pick of big money fights should he defeat Rodriguez at UFC 290.

“I want [challengers],” Volkanovski said. “I want to be active. I was at a stage where I was like, ‘Give me No. 1 guys, give me No. 1 guys.’ We’ve sort of cleared them, we don’t have them. So everybody’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, so I’ll make sure I go out there and do my business. Then if that’s on the cards, again, I want to be active, so I do definitely want that rematch with Islam, I want that lightweight fight, I want to stay active. I’ve heard people mentioning Ilia fighting other guys, but we’ll see, we’ll see what the UFC says. For me, if people think he’s the next guy: bring it on. But I’ve got Yair to worry about.”