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Topuria brutally KOs Volkanovski to win UFC featherweight title

Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Ilia Topuria was indeed the man to end the Alexander Volkanovski era at 145 pounds.

Topuria knocked out Volkanovski at the 3:32 mark of the second round to capture the UFC featherweight title in the UFC 298 main event Saturday night at Honda Center in Anaheim.

Topuria pressed Volkanovski against the fence and landed a massive right hook to put him out cold. Topuria, who represents Georgia and lives in Spain, is the first-ever UFC champion from those countries.

"I feel so happy right now," Topuria said in his postfight interview. "They're gonna tell you you can't do it. They're gonna knock you down and doubt you. But guess what? The only person you need to have your back in this life is yourself. Just trust yourself ... and everything is possible. Look at me. Look at me now."

After the win, Topuria said "it's time" to bring a UFC event to Spain. UFC CEO Dana White said later at the postfight press conference that the promotion will look into hosting a pay-per-view event in that country in the foreseeable future.

Ahead of UFC 298, Topuria said he wanted to take on Conor McGregor next if he won the title, and he sent a message to the former two-division champion Saturday.

"Conor McGregor, if you still have some balls, I will be waiting for you in Spain," Topuria said.

Saturday's main event was competitive until it wasn't. Both Volkanovski and Topuria landed hard leg kicks in the first round, with Volkanovski staying a bit busier in the stand-up department.

Volkanovski had an even stronger start to Round 2, picking Topuria apart with his jab. But with a minute and a half left in the stanza, Topuria clocked Volkanovski with the fight-ending blow that began a new era in the featherweight division.

"He caught me. ... Credit to him," Volkanovski said in his postfight interview. "Obviously, he's a hard hitter. We knew that going in. He wasn't meant to land like that, but he did. So, credit to him."

Volkanovski, who had been the champ since December 2019, suggested a rematch with Topuria.

"Obviously, I've been champion of this featherweight division a long time," Volkanovski said. "(Topuria) keeps mentioning Spain. Maybe we do a rematch over there in Spain."

A rising contender for the past several years, Topuria remained undefeated with the knockout of Volkanovski, lifting his professional record to 15-0 and UFC record to 7-0. Topuria was ranked No. 3 in the division heading into Saturday's bout. He earned a title shot with a dominant win over Josh Emmett last June.

Volkanovski has now lost two in a row for the first time in his 30-fight career and is 1-3 in his last four outings. He suffered a first-round knockout loss to Islam Makhachev in a short-notice lightweight title bout at UFC 294 last October. Volkanovski also lost to Makhachev by unanimous decision last February. He stopped Yair Rodriguez in a featherweight title defense last July in between his two unsuccessful attempts to become a two-division champion. This was his first-ever loss at 145 pounds.

The Australian had the fifth-longest title reign in men's UFC history and was defending his featherweight belt for the sixth time Saturday. Volkanovski, who has beaten the likes of Max Holloway, Jose Aldo, and Chan Sung Jung, is widely considered one of the greatest featherweights of all time.

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