On the other, there will be plenty of time to worry about the consequences of his decision to fight the UFC lightweight champion on 11 days’ notice.
“There’s still a lot of people acting like there’s nothing to lose for me,” Volkanovski said Monday on The MMA Hour. “You hear people that will say that, and I mean, that’s a lie.
“Everyone knows I want this rematch, I want this belt, and if I lose this fight, I ain’t getting a shot at the title any time soon. Let’s be real. I ain’t getting a rematch anytime soon, either.”
Being an optimist, Volkanovski chooses to focus on the benefits of the former. Makhachev is in the same boat as he is, and as the champion, there’s more pressure on him to retain the belt than win it. Plus, he reasons, he’s not the only one with aspirations above his weight class.
“You hear about him talking about moving up [in weight], and just so much as, what if it doesn’t happen? What if this is my only opportunity?” Volkanovski said.
Those are the calculations of an ever-evolving fight game, and Volkanovski likes a good risk. Win a second title, and he believes his family will be set up for life. Lose, and he still has the featherweight title, which he still intends to defend in January against top contender Ilia Topuria.
It also helps that Makhachev faces the same dilemma. On one hand, he’s facing a fighter without a full training camp. That makes it even more devastating if he loses, however.
For Volkanovski, there are big benefits to a shorter training camp.
“It’s exhausting going through camp sometimes,” he said. “Sometimes you do eight to 12 weeks of just absolutely bashing yourself, mentally and physically. So not to do that, obviously, you have to get yourself ready, but I’m sort of in a position where I don’t lose fitness overnight. It takes me a long time to lose fitness.
“Now, I can take this sort of freshness [into the fight]. That’s the word I’ve been using into this fight, going in there, sort of excited, fresh and … it’s like I don’t have to prepare for the worst.
“Can I do five rounds? Yeah, I think I can, but I’m not going to sit there and kill myself because I don’t have time to prepare for the worst. But what I do have time for is to prepare for what I believe is going to happen.”
And that, Volkanovski said, is a finish of Makhachev before the bell. The last time they met, in February at UFC 284, he lost early rounds and then surged back to put the lightweight champ in serious danger. Some believe he did enough to win the bout on points, but Volkanovski was declared the winner.
In July, Volkanovski bounced back by unifying the featherweight title against Yair Rodriguez. He intended to face Topuria in January. But when the opportunity to step in for an injured Charles Oliveira, he didn’t hesitate.
“I believe I finish him,” Volkanovski said. “I think you’re gonna see probably one of the most dangerous Volkanovskis you’ve ever seen, just purely because I can’t afford to do anything else. Stuff leaving it to the judges. Stuff any of that. Let’s just go out there and really set a statement. Go and knock him out? That’s going be an absolutely mind-blowing for the world to see.”