Shortly after Ankalaev’s win, Pereira’s longtime coach Glover Teixeira sent out a message on social media suggesting Ankalaev could be next to face the champion. Ankalaev responded with a message of his own at the evening’s post-fight press conference.
“I could have come out here today and wrestled against Johnny Walker,” Ankalaev said via a Russian translator. “I could have taken him down right away and won with my ground-and-pound on the ground, but instead I wanted to send a message. I wanted to stand up and I wanted to knock him out, and that’s what I did.
“Now, for Glover Teixeira, I have a message. Don’t waste your time trying to teach your student how to wrestle or grapple, he’s not going to need it. I’m going to come out there, I’m going to stand across from him, and I know that he’s been knocked out before as a middleweight so imagine what’s going to happen if I meet him in light heavyweight. Trust me, he’s not going to feel comfortable there.”
Ankalaev has been a dominant force in the light heavyweight division, with his lone setback being a literal last-second submission loss to Paul Craig in his UFC debut. Since then, Ankalaev has gone undefeated in 12 consecutive fights. His only blemishes are his no-contest against Walker in their first meeting at UFC 294, and a split draw against Jan Blachowicz at UFC 282.
The fight with Blachowicz was supposed to determine a new light heavyweight champion with a vacant title on the line, but the two battled to a standstill. While Ankalaev was initially upset with the judging, he is no longer preoccupied with the official decision.
“I’ve been considering myself the champ since that fight,” Ankalaev said. “For whatever reason, the judges decided that it was going to be a draw and I didn’t get my chance. Now I have a chance again to fight for the title.
“So if I get to fight against Pereira, I think we’re going to have a great fight. It’s going to be a firefight, it’s going to be an exciting fight, and we’re going to do our job and I’m going to get my title back because I’m already feeling like a champion.”
One significant hurdle in Ankalaev’s way is that Pereira could instead be matched up with former champion Jamahal Hill. Hill defeated Teixeira for the light heavyweight title at UFC 283, seemingly setting up a logical grudge match with Pereira, but Hill had to relinquish the title after suffering an injury this past summer. Whenever Hill is healthy enough to return to action, it’s assumed that he will be at the front of the line for a championship opportunity.
The way Ankalaev sees it, he has a much stronger case than Hill.
“I think here the math works out, the way that I’m more deserving of the belt because I have 10 victories, six of them knockouts, and Jamahal Hill has eight fights total in the UFC,” Ankalaev said. “So it’s just clear that I’m a more deserving contender than Jamahal Hill.”