No. 1 pound-for-pound ranked fighter Alexander Volkanovski caused quite the stir when he revealed that he is the backup for the UFC lightweight title fight between Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev at UFC 280.
The reigning featherweight champion confirmed the news on his YouTube channel, stating that he will be in Abu Dhabi and on weight in the event a last-minute change is required in the headlining bout.
“We’re locked in as a backup fighter,” Volkanovski said. “I’ve been calling it, I said I wanted it, just had to make sure the hand was all good, so we’re all good. We’re locked in, and we got the clearance to fight. The UFC is on board, everyone is on board, so I’ll be at UFC 280 to make weight, and yeah, looking forward to it. We’ll see what happens. If someone doesn’t make it, I’m there to save the day. If not, at least I’m locked in as the next guy to fight for that lightweight title, and that’s that.”
The announcement caused confusion as No. 6 ranked lightweight Beneil Dariush previously revealed that he was the designated backup for the lightweight main event.
Beneil Dariush Confused by Alexander Volkanovski Revealing Himself as the UFC 280 Stand-In for Oliveira vs. Makhachev
‘Honestly, I’m confused,” Dariush told Sirius XM. “I don’t know if he’s playing games or the UFC is playing games because I was told I’m the fill-in.
“That’s the whole point of having another lightweight fight on that card, just in case something goes wrong, so I don’t understand what’s going on here. I’m trying to get to the bottom of it, but ultimately I have one goal and that’s Gamrot. But I really thought I was the fill-in, that’s what I was told.”
— The MMA Media (@The_MMA_Media) October 11, 2022
Dariush is already scheduled to compete at the event on Yas Island, facing No. 9 ranked Mateusz Gamrot. Dariush did reveal that his spot as the backup was not included in his fight agreement. He was informed of his position as the backup through his manager. It’s possible that there may have been some kind of miscommunication between the two. It’s also possible that the UFC opted to change backups since there were no contractual obligations to stick with Dariush.
Alexander Volkanovski has already teased a potential move to lightweight after reigning over the featherweight division since 2019. ‘The Great’ has gone nearly 10 years without a loss and most recently defeated longtime division rival Max Holloway at UFC U276. It was the third time in less than three years that Alexander Volkanovski handed Holloway a defeat.
‘The Great’ also holds notable wins over Jose Aldo, Brian Ortega, and The Korean Zombie.