Alexander Volkanovski knew his next Featherweight title challenger right before he made his most recent walk to the Octagon.
Fox Sports reported earlier today (Mon., March 13, 2023) that a title unification bout between undisputed 145-pound kingpin, Volkanovski (25-2), and interim titleholder, Yair Rodriguez (16-3, 1 no contest), is being targeted for UFC 290 on July 8 in Las Vegas, Nevada at the T-Mobile Arena. MMA Mania has also confirmed with sources that the bout is in the works.
UFC 290 was announced ahead of the recent UFC 285 pay-per-view (PPV) on March 4, 2023, that the event will cap off 2023’s International Fight Week. At UFC 285 two weeks ago, former two-time Light Heavyweight champion, Jon Jones, returned as a debuting Heavyweight, capturing the title with a flawless two-minute guillotine submission win over Ciryl Gane (watch highlights). Therefore, seemingly setting up his first title defense against the divisional all-time great, Stipe Miocic, at the summer showcase. No other pairings have currently been discussed.
For Volkanovski and Rodriguez, the Featherweight champions both last fought at UFC 284 early last month (Feb. 11, 2023). Rodriguez’s bout saw him claim the interim crown in impressive fashion, finishing Josh Emmett with a second-round triangle choke submission (watch highlights). Directly after the crowning moment, Volkanovski made the walk, looking to dethrone Lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev.
Unfortunately for “The Great” Volkanovski, he came up short after a valiant effort. The two top pound-for-pound UFC fighters went toe-to-toe for the full allotted 25 minutes, resulting in a contentious unanimous decision win for Makhachev (watch highlights). Despite the outcome, Volkanovski remained ranked as the promotion’s top-ranked UFC fighter. That was until Jones came back and jumped over everyone with his epic return.