Magomed Ankalaev: Johnny Walker won’t have chance to ‘throw the fight’ again in UFC Fight Night 234 rematch

LAS VEGAS – Magomed Ankalaev still thinks he was well on his way to defeating Johnny Walker in October, and intends to pick up where he left off in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 234 rematch.

Ankalaev (18-1-1 MMA, 9-1-1 UFC) was performing well against Walker (21-7 MMA, 7-4 UFC) in their initial encounter at UFC 294 before he threw and landed an illegal knee that led to a no contest. The pair will run it back to settle the score, but this time in a five-round main event at the UFC Apex, which streams on ESPN+.

To this day, Ankalaev, 31, thinks Walker, 31, could’ve continued fighting the first time they met. The doctor ultimately deemed the Brazilian was unable to continue and the bout was waved off, and Ankalaev thinks Walker was happy to have it play out that way.

“After that shot, he was actually the one trying to tell me that was an illegal blow – so he was conscious enough and in his mind enough to say, ‘Hey dude, that was illegal,'” Ankalaev told MMA Junkie and other reporters through an interpreter at Wednesday’s UFC Fight Night 234 media day. “And then when they stopped the fight all of a sudden he started playing this whole thing of like, ‘Oh, I can’t fight anymore’ or whatever. But I’m pretty sure that he was basically just trying to throw the fight because he seemed to be just fine.”

Although he was disappointed with how things played out, Ankalaev has become accustomed to taking deflating moments in stride during his UFC career. His highly controversial stoppage win over Ion Cutelaba in February 2020 required an immediate rematch, too, and he also competed in an ultra-rare title fight draw with Jan Blachowicz at UFC 282 in December 2022.

Ankalaev said he’s happy the promotion was able to put together the rematch with Walker just three months after the first fight, and it’s his top priority to win this fight in a manner that provides zero doubt about who is the better man.

“I’m not looking for just coming out there and having my hand raised at the end of the fight,” Ankalaev said. “What I want to do is I want to make sure that I get there, I make a statement and the fight is going to be over way before the final bell.”

If Ankalaev emerges victorious, he will be on a 12-fight unbeaten streak. He’s already the No. 4 fighter in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie light heavyweight rankings, and sees few paths forward aside from a championship encounter with current titleholder Alex Pereira.

“I believe that 2024 is my year, and by the end of this year, you’ll see that the strap is around my waist,” Ankalaev said. “As the managers are telling me, it’s basically if I win this fight, there is nobody else who deserves the title run more than I do.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 234.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie