Josh Emmett was waiting on word about his next fight for several months, but he got a clue ahead of UFC 280 in October that good news could be coming soon.
According to the veteran featherweight contender, the UFC started communicating with him about plans for the future after it was cemented that reigning 145-pound champion Alexander Volkanovski would be moving up a division to challenge for a second title.
The official announcement of the fight was made only a few months later, when Emmett and Yair Rodriguez were confirmed to face off at UFC 284 in Miami on February. 11 An interim title is up for grabs.
“I’ve kind of known about it for a while,” Emmett revealed when speaking with MMA Fighting. “I think they were just waiting for the Abu Dhabi fight with Islam [Makhachev] and [Charles] Oliveira to see how things played out but once Dana [White] said Volkanovski is going up to fight whoever, they were talking possibly about an interim title or a No. 1 contender’s fight. Although I knew it, I wasn’t sure when. They were saying just get ready for December. As it got closer, I thought I wasn’t going to give a 4-week notice fight. If it was for an interim, of course, I would.
” But then, they called me on Saturday to say that it was finally happening. You and Yair. The co-main event on UFC 284. Do you really need to reach out and call me? You’ve never told me no. Are you sure I will turn it down ?”
While interim titles have become much more common in recent years, Volkanovski has firmly established himself as champion with multiple title defenses including three wins over Max Holloway.
The only problem is Volkanovski is now set to face Islam Makhachev with the lightweight title up for grabs at UFC 284, which means the featherweight division will be put on hold until he can return to defend the belt again.
Emmett admits he’s always had somewhat conflicted feelings about interim titles being introduced in the UFC but this is one instance where it feels justified. That said, Emmett has no illusions about the belt he’s seeking to win in February and what it means about his standing in the division.
“In my opinion, there’s only one title and that’s the champion [Alexander] Volkanovski,” Emmett said. He has the title, but it feels like this is solidified when I win big. Then I will fight for the title .”
Emmett isn’t looking past Rodriguez whatsoever but he views the interim title as a guarantee that a win will get him the next shot at Volkanovski once he returns to featherweight.
Volkanovski repeatedly stated that he would like to challenge at both 155 as well as 145 pound. He hopes that this will allow him to defend two titles concurrently — provided he wins over Makhachev.
For his part, Emmett takes Volkanovski as a man of his word and he anxiously awaits his return to the division.
” That’s the goal, and that’s still it,” Emmett stated about fighting Volkanovski. This is only one step closer. We’ve seen interim titles announced three months after the champion just won. Also, I thought the same thing. If Volkanovski was to return, it would probably be International Fight Week, July. That would still take a full year. He would likely be gone a bit longer, but I am sure he is keen to keep active.
“He says things, and continues to say them. I do believe him. I do believe he’s going to try to fight for the [155-pound] belt, if he does win, I feel like he wants to bounce up and down and keep the division moving. So I do believe him.”
If all goes well against Rodriguez, Emmett will then put his full attention on Volkanovski and becoming the undisputed UFC featherweight champion.
“I just think this is the right decision, the right choice,” Emmett said. This works perfectly, and it’s very well written. We can then unify the title at the mid-year .”
if we fight for the interim.
Emmett was not concerned about the selection of opponents as long as he participated in any interim title fight.
The UFC ultimately selected Rodriguez rather than another ranked contender like Arnold Allen, who is riding an impressive 10-fight win streak but dealing with a hand injury that may have prevented his return in February anyways.
Regardless of injury, Emmett was not surprised to hear that Rodriguez got the call.
“I thought it would be Yair over Allen,” Emmett said. If you don’t care about what others think, Allen or I should win. However, I believe that Yair, who is a popular UFC fighter, is better. He has a bigger following. He’s from Mexico so he has a whole country behind him. He’s entertaining, not that Allen isn’t. Allen has been entertaining and he’s really good, too, but no, it’s not surprising.
“A lot of times with the rankings people are in the top 5 and they lose and they just stay there for years. They don’t move. Just based off popularity so no, it doesn’t surprise me at all.”