October 6, 2023 5:00 pm ET
Rematching Charles Oliveira in the same place is deja vu for UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, but his motivation hasn’t faltered.
Makhachev (24-1 MMA, 13-1 UFC) will run things back with Oliveira (34-9 MMA, 22-9 UFC) in the UFC 294 headliner on Oct. 21 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+.
Makhachev dominated Oliveira en route to a second-round submission at UFC 280 last October. They will fight again just a year later, and Makhachev admits the same circumstances aren’t ideal.
“I feel the same thing like last year,” Makhachev told ESPN. “In September, I come to Dubai. Same hotel I stay, same training center, nothing changed. I need some new challenge. I like to travel, Australia, bring some guy, new city, new country, something new. When you do all the same things, it’s not fun.”
So if Makhachev was able to run through Oliveira the first time, what keeps him motivated for their rematch? The champion says the constant target on his back.
“Last fight I took zero damage,” Makhachev said. “I don’t feel the power from Charles. Maybe he changed something, I hope. … You know why (I’m still motivated)? Because (I) have belt, you look at the belt, and you don’t want to lose that belt. This is big motivation. That’s why I am going to protect my belt. I am training so hard because I know now everybody looks at me, everybody wants to take this belt, but I’m not going to give the chance to anyone.”
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