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Islam Makhachev reveals that Justin Gaethje turned down UFC 294 fight

LockerRoom Team
13 October 2023

In a turn of events, Islam Makhachev's opponent, Charles Oliveira, was forced to withdraw from their scheduled rematch at UFC 294 due to a significant cut suffered in training. Unfazed and displaying a warrior's mindset, Makhachev was determined to fight, regardless of his opponent.

Upon receiving the news of Oliveira's withdrawal, Makhachev's response was clear - he just wanted to step into the octagon and compete. UFC swiftly sought a replacement and, to the surprise of many, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski stepped up to the challenge. Volkanovski, who had a closely contested bout with Makhachev in February, eagerly accepted the opportunity on less than two weeks' notice.

Makhachev, in an interview with TSN, shared the sequence of events. “My manager Ali [Abdelaziz] sent me a message ‘your opponent pulled out’ and I just gave him a message back ‘fight someone, it doesn’t matter who it’s going to be’ just that I want to fight in Abu Dhabi. Because I’m already close to the weight and the last three months training so hard and I want to beat someone," he revealed.

The Russian lightweight initially thought of facing Mateusz Gamrot, who served as the backup for the main event. However, the UFC, after exploring various options, eventually settled on the rematch with Volkanovski.

While the UFC reached out to several fighters, including top contender Justin Gaethje, Makhachev emphasized his readiness to face anyone. Gaethje, who secured his position as the No. 1 contender after a knockout victory over Dustin Poirier, couldn't accept the fight on such short notice.

Makhachev expressed his willingness to fight someone from the rankings but acknowledged the challenges of finding a suitable replacement in the limited time frame. "I heard they called [Justin] Gaethje but Gaethje said ‘I cannot make weight because [it’s 10 days’ notice].’ We don’t have many opinions," Makhachev explained.

Facing Volkanovski again provides an opportunity for both fighters. Volkanovski aims to avenge his previous loss, while Makhachev looks to settle unanswered questions from their initial encounter.

As the anticipation builds for UFC 294, where Makhachev and Volkanovski will share the octagon once more, fight fans eagerly await the outcome of this unexpected but highly intriguing matchup. All questions will be answered in Abu Dhabi, and Makhachev is ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

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