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Josh Emmett knows the interim title isn't the real thing, but won't throw it on the ground


PERTH, Australia – UFC featherweight contender Josh Emmett appreciates what the interim title would represent for his career.


Emmett (18-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) takes on Yair Rodriguez for the interim featherweight title in the co-main event of UFC 284, which takes place Saturday at RAC Arena in Perth, Australia. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.

To some, the interim title is significant, while others couldn’t even be bothered to exit the cage with it.


When his fighting peer Justin Gaethje won the interim lightweight title by defeating Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, there was no celebration with the belt. Gaethje infamously threw it to the ground because he wanted the full, undisputed title that was held by Khabib Nurmagomdeov at the time. While Emmett understands Gaethje’s reasoning, he plans to keep the title around his waist because of what it represents.


“I’m not going to throw it on the ground, but in my eyes, there’s only one featherweight champion, and that’s Alexander Volkanovski,” Emmett told reporters at media day. “So, this is more like a No. 1 contender belt. It also gives me feedback on how good I am and leads me in the right direction to where I want to go. But, I have to get through Yair first in order to do so. So, I’m solely focused on him at the moment.”


Rodriguez (14-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) brings a unique style of fighting to the cage that has given many of his opponents problems. The unpredictable striker is hard to capable of pulling off incredible feats inside the cage, but Emmett believes he has covered all of the bases within his team. He has a strong team of training partners who have done their best to re-create the looks that Rodriguez will potentially give him inside the cage.


“He’s a great fighter,” Emmett said. “He’s ranked No. 2 for a reason. He’s one of the best in the world also. I focus on myself and even though I have training partners that can’t emulate who I’m fighting to the T because everyone’s unique in their own. And he is so dynamic, and elusive, and explosive, and crafty – you don’t know what he’s going to throw at you.

“But I’ve watched so much film on him. … I’ve prepared to the best of my ability and I’m just going to go in there and execute my gameplan, and capitalize on things that I don’t think he’ll be able to correct in that 10-week camp, and I’m going to beat him to the punch.”


Should Emmett emerge victorious, he plans to immediately turn his focus to the main event, where featherweight champ Volkanovski will attempt to become a two-division champion by taking on lightweight champ Islam Makhachev. With a Volkanovski win, a featherweight title unification bout would be on the horizon, which would be a huge moment for Emmett’s career.


“Of course I’m pulling for Volk, because you know big that fight would be. It would be massive.”


For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 284.


Originally appeared on https://mmajunkie.usatoday.com/2023/02/ufc-284-josh-emmett-wont-throw-interim-featherweight-title-on-ground-after-defeating-yair-rodriguez

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