UFC 294 is days away
UFC 294 is this Saturday at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Headlining is a lightweight championship rematch between defending title holder Islam Makhachev and current featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski.
The two are re-matching their UFC 284 contest from last year which saw Islam retain his title via unanimous decision in a Fight of the Night. The decision wasn’t without it’s controversy, so a second fight isn’t unwarranted, it’s just unfortunate that the bout is on such short notice.
The co-main event pits former welterweight champ Kamaru Usman against Chechen rising star Khamzat Chimaev. FYI Usman was definitely not hurt during a public pre-fight sparring session with lightweight contender Justin Gaethje.
Just last week fans were expecting a very different card featuring a Makachev rematch against Charles Oliveira in a re-run of their UFC 280 bout for the vacant title. Islam won that one via a second-round arm triangle choke.
Apparently, a gruesome cut suffered in sparring is what is keeping Oliveira out of Abu Dhabi, but not everyone is quite so certain of his motivations.
The co-main was originally set to feature Chimaev against Paulo Costa, but a gruesome post-surgery staph infection kept the Brazilian off the card.
The upheaval on the fight card has lead to some interesting opinions from some of the men involved.
Khamzat Chimaev explained Kamaru Usman’s motivation for taking UFC 294 fight
In his UFC 294 pre-fight press conference Khamzat Chimaev spoke about his new opponent. Specifically, he explained why he thought the former UFC heavyweight champion would go up in weight and accept a short notice fight.
“The guy comes just to make money,” Chimaev said (ht MMAFighting). “It’s a lot of money put on that. I think he gets a lot of good money when somebody fights me. It’s different-level money. That’s why he’s here. Of course, he comes to win, everyone comes to a fight to win, but he already has an excuse and he’s getting paid, so I think that’s why he comes. Everyone here, a lot of guys talk about ‘My history, this belt, this s***,’ when somebody put the money out, millions—one day everyone will forget about that but the guy is going to have his money for his family. That’s why he’s here, I think.”
No matter what Chimaev thinks is motivating Usman, the matchup is one fans have been talking about since the Chechen came to the UFC.
“Of course, because since day one I get to the UFC, everyone spoke about Khamzat-Usman, Khamzat-Usman,” Chimaev said. “Our wrestling skills, our striking, all of these things. Usman is a fighter like me, but he’s the old version, I’m new, different. Like iPhones come out, like iPhone 5, I’m like, Pro, it’s different.”
Charles Oliveira accused of ducking the Middle East
Top ranked UFC lightweight Belal Muhammad levied an accusation of his own, against Charles Oliveira.
He claimed the former champion isn’t fighting at UFC 294 because he didn’t want to travel to the Middle East.
“Charles got what he wanted. He is not fighting in Abu Dhabi,” Muhammad said (ht MMA News). “As a fighter, you understand the game, right? The training is the hardest part. But, the biggest fight of your life, the biggest rematch of your life, you get a cut 10 days before the fight on your eyebrow? Like, who are you training with, bro?
“Anthony Pettis, before his fight with Dustin Poirier, one week before, he got split open… The world didn’t know about it. Anthony got it surgically repaired, stitched up. It opened up in the fight, but he still went in there and fought,” Muhammad continued. “To me, Charles never wanted to go to Abu Dhabi. He never wanted to fight in enemy territory… Do I say he did it purposefully? Who knows? But he chose not to fight.”
Charles Oliveira’s recent record shows he’s a very busy fighter who’s not averse to travel. In fact he fought, and lost to Makhachev, in Abu Dhabi at UFC 280 in 2022. He also fought Justin Gaethje in Phoenix, and Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson in the US.
Oliveira hasn’t fought in Brazil since his win over Kevin Lee in 2020. Make of it what you will.
You know you can count on us for quick, consistent quality UFC 294 coverage. Bloody Elbow is an independent, reader supported publication. Please subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with our best work and learn how you can support the site.
Join the new Bloody Elbow
Our Substack is where we feature the work of writers like Zach Arnold, John Nash and Karim Zidan. We’re fighting for the sport, the fighters and the fans. Please help us by subscribing today.
About the author