Ilia Topuria wants Max Holloway at The Sphere, but only if ‘BMF’ title is on the line: ‘I will be the first one to take his lights out’

Ilia Topuria wants Max Holloway in The Sphere, with both men’s belts up for grabs.

This past Saturday, Holloway claimed the “BMF” title with a last-second knockout of Justin Gaethje at UFC 300. Afterward, Holloway called for a shot at the newly minted featherweight champion, saying that Topuria ducked him on his way to the title. And Topuria is happy to oblige.

“Actually, the UFC saved him for this moment,” Topuria told said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I asked for Max before the Volkanovski fight. I was asking for him all the time. ‘I want to fight him, I want to fight him.’ Finally, they gave me Volkanovski because they hid him for this moment.

“Max Holloway, he’s next. He can say whatever he wants to say — that I’m running and he’s the bull and this and that. Come on, man. Just bring the same energy you had in the last 10 seconds, but bring it in the first 10 seconds, and we’ll see what’s going to happen. Let’s bang and we’ll see what’s going to happen. I know I will be the first one to take his lights out. I know that I’m way better than him everywhere. I can do with him whatever I want to do. I can ask him, ‘How do you want me to finish you? You want me to knock you out? You want me to submit you? What do you want me to do?’”

Topuria claimed the featherweight title in February with a second-round knockout of Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 298. Holloway has his own history with Volkanovski, going 0-3 against him in title fights, and given that, Topuria made it clear that he’s only interested in the Holloway fight because “Blessed” now has the BMF belt. If that’s not on the line, then Topuria isn’t doing it.

“There are a lot of things involved in this fight,” Topuria said. “He’s got that belt, that Bad Motherf***** belt, so I’m excited to add that to my legacy, too. UFC Champion, the Baddest Motherf*****, what else? And then maybe I’ll go for a second weight class.

“Without the BMF belt, I don’t want him at all,” Topuria continued. “If not, I’m going to fight with Volk for the rematch. But because he has that belt, I’m excited about that. That’s why I want him. He’s been saying, ‘Right now I have a lot of options.’ He doesn’t have any options. Right now I’m the champion. I choose the date, I choose the place. He just has to be ready and he has to wait for the call. Whenever I want him, he has to be ready.”

Topuria added he’s still open to fighting Volkanovski after he beats Holloway, saying that the former champion deserves a rematch but he wants him to be fully healthy for it. In the meantime, Topuria believes UFC 306 will be his return fight, the highly anticipated promotional debut in The Sphere in Las Vegas on Sep. 14, which lines up nicely with his larger plans.

“I think they want me to fight in The Sphere in September,” Topuria said. “So we’ll see how they’re going to figure out the things. At the same time, we want to go in Spain. We want to bring the UFC here in the first trimester of the next year. That’s one of the reasons I want to fight in September [or] October, to be able to fight in the first trimester of the year.”

For now, Holloway seems to be the most likely opponent for Topuria’s first title defense, despite the new BMF champion recently suggesting a rematch with Conor McGregor could be next for him, after McGregor makes his return against Michael Chandler at UFC 303. And if that is what ultimately comes to pass, Topuria has a simple message for Holloway:

“The message is clear: Just get ready, be waiting for the call,” Topuria said. “I will be thinking about the date, about the place, be ready. And bring that energy you had in the last 10 seconds, and bring it in the first 10 seconds. Do the same thing you did but with me. Try that and trust me, I’m going to put your lights out. I will be the first one.

“He actually knows that, that’s why he started to call out another fighter. He started to call out Conor McGregor and I don’t know, I heard so many names he started to call out after the fight. I don’t know why he lost the interest in fighting me. Before he was like, ‘I want to fight him, he’s running from the bull.’ I never run from you. Never, ever had your name on my contract. But right now I’m going to ask for you, and trust me, it’s going to be a hard night for you.”

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