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Thursday, February 9, 2023

UFC star ‘turns down offer’ to help rival prepare for Makhachev title fight

Arman Tsarukyan says he was asked to aid Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski in his preparations

Armenian-Russian UFC fighter Arman Tsarukyan has said that he refused an offer to help Alexander Volkanovski prepare for his upcoming lightweight title bout against Islam Makhachev.

Featherweight champion Volkanovski is aiming to join a rarified group of UFC ‘double champions’ when he faces reigning 155lbs title holder Makhachev in the main event at UFC 284 on home soil in Perth in February.

According to Tsarukyan – a man who gave Makhachev a stern test in their lightweight bout in St. Petersburg in 2019 – representatives for Volkanovski reached out to recruit him as a sparring partner for the Australian.

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“He tried to connect me to his training camp,” Tsarukyan told Match TV“I refused, because there was no point, I understood that at the moment I’m not actively training. I didn’t even ask about the terms.”

Tsarukyan, 26, said he had been contacted by his manager and another friend about a possible link-up with Volkanovski, as well as an unnamed contact in the US.

“I don’t think it makes sense for me to be in his camp even if there are financial benefits. If I had preparation, if I understood that I would go to Australia as a stand-in [for the fight], then most likely I would go. 

“But I had a vacation planned for this year, I haven’t been at home for 8 or 9 months.”

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Tsarukyan boasts a 6-2 record since making his UFC debut against Makhachev in 2019, and some impressive performances have seen him tipped as a potential future contender for the lightweight title.

Tsarukyan was last in action in December, when he earned a unanimous decision victory over Russia’s Damir Ismagulov – handing him a first loss in 20 fights.

Tsarukyan finds himself at number nine in the UFC’s 155lbs rankings, while Volkanovski will be aiming to topple the man at the pinnacle of the list – Makhachev.

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Volkanovski, 34, has been prompted to step up after ruling the featherweight rankings with an iron fist.

The UFC’s current pound-for-pound king, he is unbeaten in 12 fights since joining the promotion – and his last 22 overall.

Makhachev, meanwhile, will venture to enemy territory for the first defense of the title he won by submitting Brazil’s Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi October.

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UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski (R) challenges Islam Makhachev of Russia after his victory over Charles Oliveira
Russian champ Makhachev inks deal to fight UFC pound-for-pound king

The Dagestani is on an 11-fight win streak and has been backed by mentor and friend Khabib Nurmagomedov to impose a new era of dominance in the division.

Tsarukyan said he sees the fight as going in favor of Makhachev, but cautioned that the Aussie could pose a threat if he manages to keep the fight on the feet and avoid Makhachev’s vaunted ground game.

“[Volkanovski] defended the [featherweight] title so many times, he’s experienced, powerful on the feet. He can’t be written off, for some reason people greatly underestimate him,” said Tsarukyan.

“I would rate it 40/60. Forty to Volkanovski, and 60 to Islam.”

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Islam Makhachev was crowned champion at UFC 280 in October.
Russian UFC champ vows to make challenger ‘panic’

Volkanovski claimed on a recent podcast appearance with former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping that he would relish the chance to “take out” Makhachev – knowing his reputation and that of the man in his corner, Khabib.

“The challenge, the opponent that I’ve got, that excites me more. Going for this champ-champ and taking out someone like Islam is really what people are going to remember,” said the Australian.

“A lot of people think he’s unstoppable right now, but I’m going to show you that he is stoppable and I can’t wait to go out there and do my thing.”

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In response, Makhachev has vowed that his opponent will “panic” within 15 second of being taken to the ground.

December 29, 2022 at 07:12PM
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