UFC featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski to face lightweight champ Islam Makhachev for dual-belt status

UFC featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski will go for rare dual-belt status against newly minted lightweight title-holder Islam Makhachev at UFC 284 in February, the company announced ahead of UFC 281 on Saturday.

If victorious, Volkanovski, already ranked as the promotion's top pound-for-pound fighter, would become the fifth fighter to simultaneously hold two belts in UFC history, joining Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes and Henry Cejudo.

The event will take place at the RAC Arena in Perth, Australia, making it the first time Volkanovski will fight in his native country since 2018, and also his first time as a UFC champion.

Also on the UFC 284 card is a middleweight bout between Volkanovski's fellow Australian Robert Whittaker and former title challenger Paulo Costa. The UFC later announced during 281 that Yair Rodriguez would face Josh Emmett for an interim featherweight championship at the same event.

Alex Volkanovski is a big challenge for Islam Makhachev's first title defense

There was no shortage of potential title challengers for Makhachev, who captured the belt at UFC 280 last month with a submission win over de facto champion Charles Oliveira.

Oliveira had beaten three major names in Michael Chandler, Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje for lightweight supremacy, though he was stripped of his belt ahead of the Gaethje fight for missing weight by a half-pound. Any of those three challengers would have made for a fun first title defense (as would Beneil Dariush), but then Makhachev called out Volkanovski after beating Oliveira.

Makhachev, who holds a record of 23-1, is already No. 3 on the UFC's pound-for-pound list, and defeating No. 1 on his home turf could propel him to the top after only two title fights.

A win for Volkanovski, though, would potentially propel him to all-time status. He has already defended his featherweight belt four times, including a second and third win over former champ Max Holloway, and is 12-0 since joining the UFC.

The featherweight ranks were already looking pretty thin for potential challengers (you can only beat Holloway so many times), so this was a great fight to make if the champ was up for it.

And he was clearly up for it.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 22: UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski (R) challenges Islam Makhachev of Russia after his victory over Charles Oliveira in their UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 280 event at Etihad Arena on October 22, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Islam Makhachev wanted Alex Volkanovski. He got him. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC) (Chris Unger via Getty Images)