Chael Sonnen Encourages Volkanovski to Vacate Featherweight Title Before Accepting Rematch with Islam Makhachev

Sonnen believes Volkanovski would be doing a disservice to himself and the featherweight division by continuing to carry the 145-pound title should he accept a rematch with Makhachev

Courtesy of @UFCNews on Twitter

Chael Sonnen believes that if Alexander Volkanovski is going to run it back with Islam Makhachev for the UFC lightweight championship, he needs to bite the bullet and leave the 145-pound title behind. 

Alexander Volkanovski once against solidified himself as perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world at UFC 290, scoring a third-round TKO against interim titleholder Yair Rodriguez in the evening’s main event. Determined to fight one more time before 2023 comes to a close, analysts are already speculating who ‘The Great’ could square off with this fall. One very likely scenario would pit Volkanovski against streaking featherweight contender Ilia Topuria. 

However, fans have been clamoring for a rematch between Volkanovski and the Dagestani destroyer, Islam Makhachev. The pair of P4P greats delivered a Fight of the Year contender at UFC 284 in February that saw Makhachev escaping with a unanimous decision despite the general consensus favoring ‘The Great’ after five rounds of action. The closely-contested nature of the scrap and the somewhat controversial decision left plenty of room for a rematch and all signs point toward that bout happening in Abu Dhabi this fall. 

Addressing the possibility of a rematch, Chael Sonnen suggested that Volk relinquish the featherweight title. Not just for the benefit of 145’ers vying for their shot at UFC gold, but for Volkanovski who will likely face more pressure going into a bout knowing that if he comes up short, he won’t have another world title to fall back on.  

“If Volk is leaving 45 to 55, he needs to leave the belt behind. That’s my opinion, but I’m going to push for that,” Sonnen said on his YouTube channel. Let’s do it for a couple reasons. For one, to let guys like [Ilia] Topuria get on with it. They’ve already had that division wait. That’s not right. And two, I think it’s the reason he didn’t beat Islam. 

“That fight was very close, but Volk, win or lose, was going to wake up a world champion the next day. It’s a very unique spot and it’s hard to feel that pressure and it’s hard to feel that drive. You’ve got to burn your boats to some degree. I think it was a mistake and I don’t think that he should make it twice. I think if he wants to go to 55, I wish him well. I’d love to see him up there, but I think he needs to leave the belt behind at 45.”

With Charles Oliveira Out of a Proposed October Title Fight with Makhachev, Alexander Volkanovski May Swoop in and Take the Rematch

After Charles Oliveira’s impressive first-round finish against Beneil Dariush, Dana White suggested that a rematch between Makhachev and Oliveira was the most logical bout to make. However, ‘Do Bronx’ revealed in an International Fight Week interview that he would not be ready for the rematch in October when the UFC returns to Abu Dhabi. That leaves the door wide open at the top of the lightweight division and Volkanovski appears to be the one that will walk through it. 

“As far as what’s going on at 55, man, I don’t know. It’s a really tough spot. Islam himself deserves a match, but Islam himself has done nothing to get himself a match,” Sonnen added.

If Makhachev is truly desperate for a match, he could also find himself a potential opponent later this month following the highly anticipated clash between Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier at UFC 291. With both men still hanging around the top of the division, an impressive showing by either man could put them in pole position for a relatively short-notice title opportunity.

Published on July 11, 2023 at 4:05 pm
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