Justin Gaethje looks to be next in line for a shot at the UFC’s lightweight title, but Robert Whittaker wouldn’t be surprised if Alexander Volkanovski is able to jump in front of him for a rematch with Islam Makhachev.
“The Highlight” is a former interim lightweight titleholder and has previously challenged to become undisputed champion on two occasions. Gaethje was submitted in both of those fights, but after he claimed the vacant BMF title by knocking out Dustin Poirier at UFC 291 most fans seem to think he’s earned a third crack at the lightweight belt.
Islam Makhachev is due to defend his title in a rematch with Charles Oliveira at UFC 294 this month, and if the lightweight champion is able to best the Brazilian again he recently teased the idea of moving up a division to fight for the welterweight title.
Robert Whittaker: Alexander Volkanovski Has “Earned” Second Lightweight Title Shot
Seeing Islam Makhachev try to become a two-division champion may seem a bit ambitious after what would be just his second title defense, but Whittaker could see Alexander Volkanovski getting a second try at the lightweight belt over Gaethje depending on the result of the UFC 294 main event.
“That’s tricky, because you see if Volk wants that fight he’s kind of earned it,” Whittaker said on his MMArcade Podcast. “He’s kind of earned that weight in trying to pull fights, right? But then Makhachev winning this fight again – especially after the way he did it the first time – it gives him some weight to want to move up. Especially ‘cause he’s already fought Volk.”
“The Great” very nearly claimed a second title at UFC 284 but lost a somewhat controversial unanimous decision to Makhachev. Alexander Volkanovski returned to the featherweight division at UFC 290 in July and stopped Yair Rodriguez, which marked the fifth time he’d successfully defended his featherweight title.
The chances of either Alexander Volkanovski or Gaethje challenging for the lightweight strap next seem largely dependent on who walks away from UFC 294 as champion. Islam Makhachev is currently favored to defend his title, but if Oliveira were to reclaim the belt then it could set up what would be a massive trilogy fight between the two men.