Ilia Topuria: Movsar Evloev 'Needs to Finish Someone' to Earn Title Shot

UFC
February 19, 2024
More than anything, UFC 298 will likely go down in history as a changing of the guard in the featherweight division.

Ilia Topuria ended the lengthy championship reign of Alexander Volkanovski in emphatic fashion, knocking out the Aussie standout with a clean right hook at the 3:32 mark of Round 2 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, on Saturday night. Prior to the finish, the fight was quite competitive, with Volkanovski taking the opening stanza on all three judges’ scorecards.

Ultimately, it was a matter of Topuria figuring out his opponent’s timing and finding the right opening.

“First of all, I don’t need the judges,” Topuria said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “When I’m fighting, they can go and take their time to break. The guy [Volkanovski] was really fast, very fast jabs. With his kicks, he surprised me a little bit. It took me a little time to study him, and I had to knock him out in the second round.

“I was just waiting to find my timing,” Topuria added. “He caught me with a couple of punches and he was celebrating, like ‘hahaha.’ I was like, ‘Now it’s my turn, wait for that, wait for that.’ The game plan since the first moment was to do long combinations, not just a one-two. Because It’s more difficult to read long combinations than just combinations with two punches.”

For a long time, Topuria’s central focus was to capture a belt. Now that the moment has arrived, he doesn’t quite have the next step planned out just yet.

“Right now, I don’t know,” he said. “My goal since the beginning was to become a UFC world champion. I have to go home. I have to meditate, visualize what are going to be the next steps I’m going to take. But for sure, I’m going to make some big steps.”

One obvious possibility would be to give Volkanovski an immediate rematch due to his standing as one of the great featherweight champions in UFC history. Topuria offered only a lukewarm reaction to that option.

“He’s such a good person. To be honest, at this point, I’m like, OK I’m gonna give him the rematch because he’s a good person, but at the same time, it’s time to move on,” Topuria said. “It’s time to clean up the division. It’s time for the new generation to have new challengers, new faces. I will be looking for that. To be honest, my job is to fight. Whoever they’re going to tell me I’m going to have to face and fight next, I will be there.”

Topuria also remained dismissive of some of the other top contenders in the division such as Max Holloway, Yair Rodriguez and Brian Ortega. Holloway is moving to 155 pounds to face Justin Gaethje for the “BMF” title at UFC 300, while Rodriguez and Ortega will square off at UFC Fight Night 237 in Mexico City on Saturday.

“All of them, they don’t make any sense for me right now,” Topuria said. “As I said, I need new challengers. New ones. There are some upcoming fights , and we’ll see how they’re gonna play out. You’re gonna see ‘El Matador’ for a while.”

When it comes to new challengers, Movsar Evloev stands out as perhaps the most intriguing option for Topuria. The two featherweights were even supposed to meet at UFC 270 before Evloev withdrew, but the new champion believes something is missing from Evloev’s record.

“Movsar is a good fight for me. I would love to fight him,” Topuria said. “But the guy has eight fights in the UFC, eight decisions. Zero submissions, zero knockouts.

“Man, come on. He needs to finish someone. The record he has right now, it seems nice. He’s undefeated, but the guy doesn’t finish anyone. He needs to do something.”

His post-fight callout of Conor McGregor aside, Topuria admitted that as of right now, a Volkanovski rematch might be the most likely option.

“At this point, I think that’s the fight in the division that makes more sense than any fight,” he said. “We’ll see. I have sit down with my management, with the UFC and we’ll see what the future is holding for me.”

Reference: https://www.sherdog.com/news/news/Ilia-Topuria-Movsar-Evloev-Needs-to-Finish-Someone-to-Earn-Title-Shot-192662#/slide/2

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