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Ilia Topuria plans to ‘dominate’ Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 298, wants Conor McGregor next

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Ilia Topuria has big goals for 2024.

Later this month, Topuria challenges Alexander Volkanovski for the featherweight title in the main event of UFC 298. The bout is one of the most heavily anticipated fights of the year, with oddsmakers having it as a near pick’em, but “El Matador” is supremely confident that things won’t be nearly that close come fight night.

“It’s going to be a first-round knockout. You will see,” Topuria said Monday on The MMA Hour. “He’s saying a lot of bulls***, ‘There’s levels, I have this and I have that, dah, dah, dah.’ You’re right, there are levels. There are levels, then there is me. I’m going to show you where the levels are. I’m going to dominate him everywhere. I’m going to make him look like a punching bag. You will see. I will be dancing Feb. 17.”

Widely regarded as one of the greatest fighters of all-time, Volkanovski had an up-and-down year in 2023. He made two excursions up to lightweight to chase down double-champ status and lost both times to Islam Makhachev, the second time by head-kick knockout back in October. Between those two fights, Volkanovski did have a sensational title defense over Yair Rodriguez in July, but Topuria believes the Makhachev fights revealed an unfortunate truth for the 35-year-old champion.

“You are talking to the best fighter in the world,” Topuria said. “I’m the best. He is one of the best. You have to give him his credit. He was a great champion, he was pound-for-pound No. 1. He was one of the greatest, without any doubt. One of the greats in the featherweight division, and he will always be remembered like that, like one of the greatest in this division. And I’m happy to be the man who is going to give him the bad news on Feb. 17: He’s old. It’s time to move on. It’s time for the new generation. He’s old. He already lost. He has all the signals that he has to retire. He had his moments in this sport and now it’s time to move on. It’s time for the new blood, and I represent the new generation. I represent the evolution of mixed martial arts.”

With a career record of 14-0 with 12 finishes, Topuria has reason to be confident. And once he dispatches Volkanovski to claim his first UFC title, “El Matador” has big ideas for his next fight: A matchup with another man who doesn’t lack confidence.

“The way I’m going to beat him, they aren’t even going to ask me about a rematch,” Topuria said.

“Conor McGregor, that’s the fight I’m looking for. He has a great fight with Mike Chandler. If he doesn’t get his ass whooped, he will be a pleasure to share the octagon with me. Maybe in UFC Spain. We’re both from Europe, and he will be able to go back home and tell his wife, ‘Baby, take out the red panties. Topuria kept us rich.’”

McGregor will ostensibly face Michael Chandler sometime in 2024, however that fight has been discussed for more than a year and still remains theoretical at this point. Plus, it’s unclear whether the UFC would even be interested given the deep bench of title challengers at 145 pounds should Topuria dethrone Volkanovski, including Max Holloway, Rodriguez, and Brian Ortega, among others. But Topuria doesn’t have any interest in Holloway or the others.

“How? I’m going to beat the guy who whooped his ass three times?” Topuria said when asked about Holloway. “How? It doesn’t make any sense. Max, Yair, Brian Ortega, all of them, they can go and retire. I’m never going to give them the chance to fight for the title.

“I don’t know, to be honest,” Topuria continued when asked who he would defend against. “The UFC knows that even better than me and I don’t think they’re going to even offer Max or the names I told you. We’ll see. I’m just completely focused on my upcoming fight and we’ll see what the future holds for me.”

If it’s not McGregor next and does end up being one of the other featherweight contenders, or even a rematch with Volkanovski, “El Matador” is still dreaming big. While Topuria would prefer to fight McGregor in Spain, he’s adamant that the promotion will head to his home country this year regardless, and he believes a show in Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, the home of Real Madrid, is even possible.

“Of course. It’s going to happen in 2024,” Topuria said. “I don’t know when. At the end of the year, maybe. I hope it’s going to happen in Madrid at the [Real Madrid stadium]. The stadium is ready to make events. You can close the roof, you can [cover the grass]. They made it especially for events, so it would be one of the biggest ticket sales in UFC history.

“This is what [UFC] told me, but we’re considering all options. We’ll see. But in Spain, of course it’s going to happen. UFC Spain, that’s for sure.”

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