UFC featherweight Josh Emmett believes that his place at the front of the title contention queue should be safe no matter the result of Yair Rodriguez’s fight against Brian Ortega.
At UFC Austin last month, Emmett staked his claim for his first shot at the 145-pound gold in a tight five-round affair against Calvin Kattar. Having returned from a lengthy layoff against the lower-ranked Dan Ige last December, the veteran powerhouse vowed to only accept opponents above him on the ladder, a wish that was granted in Texas.
Having added the name of “The Boston Finisher” to his now-18-2 professional résumé, a victory that ascended him to #3 in the rankings, Emmett called his shot for the next date with reigning champion Alexander Volkanovski.
But despite his lengthy five-fight win streak, it appears there’s one fellow contender who has the chance to threaten his pursuit of gold, and it’s the one he happens to share a ranking with.
Prior to his third victory over Max Holloway at UFC 276, Volkanovski suggested that Rodriguez has the chance to secure his spot as the next challenger with an impressive display against Ortega next weekend, suggesting that the Mexican would represent a bigger fight than Emmett.
“I haven’t faced Yair yet, Yair Rodriguez. So, if he goes out and wins, I feel like that’ll probably be a bigger fight. Again, it doesn’t matter who I like, I want these big fights,” Volkanovski said during UFC 276 media day. “Josh Emmett is on an incredible winning streak and all that, nothing but respect for him, and I know I’ll be facing him soon. But again, I want the big fights… Is everyone screaming his name? I don’t know.”
Unsurprisingly, Emmett has shared a different sentiment to the Australian champ.
Emmett: Even If Rodriguez Wins, I’m Next
During an exclusive interview with MMA News’ own James Lynch, Emmett further insisted that he’s done enough to secure his desired championship opportunity. After admitting that he hadn’t seen Volkanovski’s comments, the 37-year-old took time to explain why he deserves the shot over the UFC Long Island main event victor.
“I didn’t see (Volkanovski say) that. But man, I feel like I can make an argument why I am the number-one contender,” Emmett said. “I’m on a five-fight win streak, I’ve beat guys in the top 10, I’ve beat guys in the top five, and I understand Yair is — we’re both tied for third right now, we’re both ranked third. He’s a great fighter as well.
“But I feel like if he wins against Ortega, or whoever wins, then they’ll be on a one-fight winning streak; they’ve already fought the elite guys. I feel like I’m the next fight. It’s the only fight to make,” Emmett continued. “I can argue my case and I’m sticking to that until I get the call saying, ‘Hey, you’re fighting Volkanovski.’ Wherever the hell it is, I don’t care when, I don’t care where.”
When asked whether he’ll be rooting for Ortega to get his hand raised in New York given that “T-City” has already challenged and lost to Volkanovski, Emmett insisted that even a win for “El Pantera” shouldn’t be enough to unseat him from the number one contender spot.
“I still feel like if Yair wins, it’s like, I still feel like I’m next,” Emmett insisted. “But they could still make that case and say he hasn’t fought (Volkanovski).”
Catch our full interview with #3-ranked featherweight contender Josh Emmett below:
Do you agree with Josh Emmett? Has he secured his place as the next challenger no matter the outcome of Yair Rodriguez vs. Brian Ortega?