Magomed Ankalaev believes he needs a big change to get to the next level of his career, but it’s not so much a technical improvement.
Magomed Ankalaev (18-1-1 MMA, 9-1-1 UFC) returns to the cage Saturday on the main card of UFC 294. He takes on Johnny Walker in a key light heavyweight matchup.
This bout with Johnny Walker (21-7 MMA, 7-4 UFC) marks the first time Ankalaev will fight since his controversial split draw against Jan Błachowicz for the then-vacant UFC light heavyweight title back in December 2022.
Magomed Ankalaev was criticized by both UFC CEO Dana White and fans for not putting on an exciting fight. The Russian now understands that criticism and promises to fight more aggressively in his return.
“I rewatched the fight a couple of times, and there’s no question that I came out the winner at that time, but I understand that it’s not just about wining. It’s about putting on a show,” Ankalaev told reporters at Wednesday’s UFC 294 media day. “I think we’ve done a lot of work and corrected the mistakes that we already had. I’m ready to show exciting fights and not just win, but win before the end of the fight.”
Magomed Ankalaev was also criticized by Walker in the buildup to UFC 294. The Brazilian claimed that Ankalaev shows “no emotion” and that he doesn’t do enough to promote himself.
Magomed Ankalaev said that’s partly consequence of not knowing English, but that he acknowledged he can also do more in terms of out-of-cage antics. On top of fighting more aggressively, Ankalaev promises to be more brash on the mic.
“I understand that doing something crazy like that gets the viewership up, and I’m starting to understand that this is something that is necessary moving forward,” Ankalaev said. “We’re working on it. We’re working on something, so soon you can probably expect a show.”
For just the fifth time in UFC history, a title bout ended in a draw as Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev fought to a split draw at UFC 282.
Any time a draw happens, we’re left with an empty feeling. What made Saturday night’s pay-per-view main event at T-Mobile Arena especially empty is the fact that we’re still left without a light heavyweight champion since Jiri Prochazka, who was supposed to headline against Glover Teixeira, vacated the title after suffering a serious injury.
Many, including Blachowicz himself, believed that Ankalaev was the rightful winner, including 23 of 25 media members logged by MMADecisions.com. But judges Mike Bell, Derek Cleary and Sal D’amato each had a different outcome, with D’amato leaving it all tied up at 47-47.