Alexander Volkanovski responds to Beneil Dariush’s UFC backup claim that he said, ‘I am not playing any game’


Beneil Dariush was caught off-guard by Alexander Volkanovski’s declaration that he isn’t the official backup for Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev. The UFC featherweight champion knows that there is nothing fake.

“If he’s watching, I’m not playing any games,” Volkanovski said Wednesday on The MMA Hour of the UFC 280 backup booking. “Maybe they did tell you you could be very early, whether this was a couple of months ago, whether his manager had that conversation saying that you will be, and he just assumed he was and hasn’t looked into it since, I don’t know. My corners are being flung up. I’m getting paid for this, all that type of stuff. It’s locked in. It’s locked in.

Volkanovski had been looking for a backup job for several weeks, but he said that he was finally confirmed by his doctor after a minor hand injury sustained in his fight against Max Holloway (UFC 276.). For the past month, he’s been in full preparation to fight either Oliveira or Makhachev at the Oct. 22 pay-per-view event. Craig Jones, a wrestler and submission-savvy trainer partner is alternating imitations of Oliveira or Makhachev round by round.

“A lot of people didn’t think it was going to be doable, including the UFC doctor,” Volkanovski said of his injury recovery. But I thought, “No, it’ll happen .'”


Dariush is scheduled to take on Mateusz Gambrot at the UFC 280 main event. He wondered aloud if Volkanovski, or the UFC is “playing games with this switchup. The surging lightweight suffered an ankle injury that forced him to withdraw from a fight with Makhachev at UFC Vegas 49, but he said he was ready to face Gamrot or serve as the backup fighter in the headlining title fight.

From Volkanovski’s perspective, the move is to avoid a delay in his two-title aspirations. He believes that if either Oliveira or Makhachev is unable to fight at UFC 280, they will get the next title opportunity. That could leave him delayed for two title cycles at a time when he wants to go for broke as a double-champ.

Volkanovski, the No. 1 ranked featherweight and pound-for-pound fighter in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, could have demanded the winner of Oliveira vs. Makhachev. But he said the backup move only ensured he would get the first possible opportunity.

“I don’t think many people in my position would do what I’m doing,” he said. I didn’t want everyone to ask me what was going on. I needed them to understand that, whatever happens, I will be there to rescue the day or go along anyway. Either I’m going to have to step in, or I get to watch some good fights at UFC 280.

“If anything, I didn’t tell them, ‘I want to wait, you should give me this.’ I told them, ‘I want to be backup.’ They didn’t tell me to do this, I told them.”

Volkanovski also expects to get the fight, even if UFC 280’s main event doesn’t qualify as a title bout. Oliveira infamously missed weight by a half-pound and was stripped of the belt in advance of his previous fight, a scheduled title defense against Justin Gaethje at UFC 274. After defeating Gaethje, Oliveira was later booked against Makhachev in a fight for the vacant lightweight title.

Volkanovski does not expect any fighter to pass up the chance, but he doesn’t think the UFC will ever again go ahead with non-title fights.

“If someone misses weight, I’m going to be in,” he said. What’s the use of that? If the person who has lost weight wins the contest, then the belt will still be vacant. It’s not clear to me. It doesn’t matter if the contract says so. I am focusing on my training and busting my arse. It’s clear to me that anyone who loses weight will have that chance taken away .”