Magomed Ankalaev currently holds one of the longest win streaks in the UFC, but he doesn’t want to think about a light heavyweight title shot just yet.
The 30-year-old is set to meet Anthony Smith at UFC 277 in Dallas, Texas. The two top light heavyweights will kick off the event’s main card, which is headlined by a rematch between women’s bantamweight champion Julianna Peña and Amanda Nunes.
Ankalaev has long been tabbed as a future UFC title challenger, and this matchup with the #5-ranked Smith could potentially move the winner into position for a title shot.
When asked at the UFC 277 media day if his own status as the UFC’s #4-ranked light heavyweight made the matchup a possible #1 contender bout, Ankalaev indicated he was only focused on fighting Smith.
“Right now, I’m solely concentrated on this fight,” Ankalaev answered via a translator. “I’m fighting Anthony. I want to make sure I go through this fight first. Then once I win, then we can think about what’s next and what is the right thing next.”
Moving Closer To The Top
Ankalaev’s fight with Smith will be his first appearance on a pay-per-view main card, and the Russian is also coming off his first UFC main event against Thiago Santos earlier this year.
The 30-year-old won a fairly unremarkable unanimous decision over the Brazilian, and the result of that bout was the likely catalyst for another media day question asking if Ankalaev felt he needed an impressive win at UFC 277.
“I’ll make sure to go all out. I’ll make sure to show what I’m capable of. I know that my opponent is very important to this organization and very big in the sport in general. So, it’s important for me to show that I’m 100% ready, and I’ll go 100% for this.”
After dropping his UFC debut to Paul Craig when he tapped to a last-second triangle choke, Ankalaev defeated Marcin Prachnio to begin his current 8-fight win streak.
This fight with Smith will be Ankalaev’s third consecutive bout with a former light heavyweight title challenger. In addition to defeating Santos in his last fight, the Russian also won a unanimous decision over Volkan Oezdemir last year.
What do you think of Ankalaev’s choice to focus on fighting Smith and avoid any discussion of a title shot?