First and foremost, the Team Alpha Male fighter seeks to become the UFC interim featherweight champion when he faces Yair Rodriguez in the co-main event. A victory there will put him in line to then battle for the undisputed 145-pound title presumably against Alexander Volkanovski, who is featured on the same card in the main event against UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev.
Volkanovski seeking a second UFC title prevented Emmett from potentially getting a shot right away at an undisputed belt, but truth be told, he backed the featherweight champion’s decision to move up to lightweight for at least one night.
“Even before I got the interim shot, when I was just kind of in this holding pattern, I believe [Alexander Volkanovski] deserves it,” Emmett told MMA Fighting. “He’s undefeated in the UFC. He’s on this crazy win streak. He’s the pound-for-pound No. 1. A lot of people are going up and trying to accomplish that champ-champ status.
“The whole time, I believe he does deserve it. We’re going to fight eventually. He deserves it.”
While his focus remains solely on Rodriguez and his own fight on Saturday, Emmett is obviously keeping an eye on UFC 284’s main event because it could impact his future.
If Volkanovski loses, then the champ simply returns to featherweight where he will defend his title against either Emmett or Rodriguez.
On the flip side, Volkanovski successfully claiming a second UFC title could possibly delay his next fight at 145 pounds, although he’s stated numerous times that become a two-division champion would ultimately fulfill a bigger goal to stay active defending belts across multiple weight classes.
For what it’s worth, Emmett takes Volkanovski at his word that he will return to the featherweight division even if he’s carrying around an extra belt after Saturday.
“I do feel like if he can capture that 155 title, I believe him [that he will come back to featherweight],” Emmett said. “He’s a great champion, a great guy, and I feel like he wants to do that. He wants to try and win the title and then be active in both divisions and keep them moving. We haven’t seen that yet, but I do believe he will.
“I know a lot of people are counting him out like he can’t win. You can’t count Volkanovski out. I know how good Islam is but I’m definitely not counting Volkanovski out.”
Emmett admits that he rarely gets invested in fights that aren’t his own or those that don’t involve his teammates, but he’s definitely interested in seeing how Volkanovski handles himself against Makhachev at lightweight.
Of course, Emmett’s main concern is beating Rodriguez and then becoming undisputed UFC champion, but he can’t deny the interest in taking a belt away from a two-division champion, which only raises the stakes should he get Volkanovski next.
“Usually, I don’t care who wins or loses unless they’re on my team but for this one, I’m definitely rooting for Volkanovski,” Emmett said. “If I go out there and I win the interim title and then he goes out and becomes the champ-champ, it’s going to be a huge fight.
“I’m definitely rooting for the guy. I’m pulling for him and I hope he gets the job done.”
Volkanovski will be fighting an uphill battle as a near 3-to-1 underdog to Makhachev, who has looked virtually unbeatable during his current 11-fight win streak, which includes a dominant submission victory over ex-UFC champion Charles Oliveira.
That said, Emmett believes there are still advantages that Volkanovski maintains at lightweight and that anyone discounting his chances at UFC 284 might want to rethink their assessment.
“On the feet, it’s going to be pretty competitive,” Emmett said. “Of course, Islam has better wrestling and he’s a strong, physical guy, but like Volkanovski has said, he’s come down from 200 pounds. I kind of feel the same way. I grapple with people who are 185 or 205 [pounds] and I don’t feel like I’m at a strength disadvantage. Of course, if I were to fight someone [that big], they’d have the reach on me, but I could still get inside, so I get where he’s coming from just being a shorter person like he is.
“I know how good Chad Mendes’ wrestling is and Chad would take him down and Volkanovski would just get back up, and he’s gotten so much better since they fought. I’m excited to watch their fight.”