UFC 294 will feature a different lightweight title rematch than previously planned.
Out is Charles Oliveira, the former champ who was set to face Islam Makhachev to reclaim the belt he lost nearly a year ago. In is UFC featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski, who will once again challenge Makhachev for his belt and try to avenge the only loss of his UFC career.
The UFC announced the change Tuesday night, less than two weeks before the event’s Oct. 21 date.
UFC president Dana White confirmed the news himself and explained that Oliveira had sustained a cut in his eyebrow that would have made going forward unfeasible. He also didn’t seem happy Oliveira’s team took care of his stitches rather than go to the promotion and its own medical team:
“Round 5 of sparring last night, before he’s supposed to jump on a plane today, splits his eyebrow wide open. Had it stitched up last night. Obviously can’t fly out here with that.
“They didn’t call us. We would have had him go to a plastic surgeon. They would have sewed it from the inside-out, get that thing done the right way. These guys never call us like they should when something happens. They call us after they get it stitched up. On the flip side, too, I could see him not wanting to risk it, getting a shot like this.”
White also praised Volkanovski and his team, calling them “absolute studs” for accepting the fight on short notice.
Curiously, the UFC already had a backup fighter officially confirmed in Mateusz Gamrot, but the promotion apparently decided it would rather have its No. 2 and 3 pound-for-pound fighters face off again.
Volkanovski is three months removed from his third-round TKO of Yair Rodríguez to defend his own featherweight belt at UFC 290. He previously challenged Makhachev for the lightweight belt in February, losing by unanimous decision in an electric bout.
This is a brutal development for Oliveira, who officially lost his belt a year and a half ago when he missed weight in a title defense against Justin Gaethje. After dominating Gaethje, Oliveira faced Makhachev for a chance to win the vacant belt and got stone-walled, losing by second-round submission. He bounced back with a win over would-be challenger Beneil Dariush to set up the rematch, but will now have to wait for his day again.