Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
The Dagestani light heavyweight secured his eighth victory in a row with a unanimous decision over Santos in a largely uneventful affair, with both fighters essentially waiting for the other one to engage. While it wasn’t the performance he wanted, Ankalaev can’t be totally disappointed because he still left the octagon with his hand raised.
“I am happy that I won,” Ankalaev said at UFC Vegas 50’s post-fight press conference. “To be honest, it is what it is. We expected him to move forward for the whole fight and to catch him on his mistakes, but he preferred to move backwards. That’s why I preferred to strike with him.
“To be honest, I’m not glad with my performance totally, because I expected him to make an entertaining fight, to strike more, but it is what it is.”
Regardless of how the fight played out, Ankalaev still earned a win over another ranked opponent. It was his second straight victory over a past UFC title challenger, adding upon his unanimous decision over Volkan Oezdemir in October.
Ankalaev feels as if that should be more than enough to secure a title shot at light heavyweight, and he hopes to face the winner of the upcoming fight between reigning champion Glover Teixeira and Jiri Prochazka scheduled for UFC 275 in June.
“In my opinion, I deserve the title shot next,” Ankalaev said. “Because I am on an eight-fight winning streak and some of the fights I finished the guys, and I feel I’m ready.”
If the title shot doesn’t happen right away, Ankalaev noted that he’d be willing to compete in a No. 1 contender’s fight, however he shut down a potential fight against Anthony Smith, who just so happened to be on the broadcast while working as an analyst at UFC Vegas 50.
“As you know, Anthony Smith was offered to fight me before and he wasn’t interested, as I have said,” Ankalaev stated during the ESPN+ post-fight show. “Now I’m looking forward to get the title shot next. I believe I deserve it.”
In response, Smith admitted that the UFC had actually reached out to him with an offer to face Ankalaev on Saturday night, but he just wasn’t healthy enough at the time to accept.
“He was offered the fight,” Smith said. “I was fresh out of knee surgery and staph infection, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to take it then.
“I’m healthy now. I’ve been begging for a fight. I think me and the UFC have been waiting for this matchup to happen to see how it unfolds. I guess I do apologize for getting staph infection.”
Smith is currently riding a three-fight win streak of his own. He had been chasing a rematch against Aleksandar Rakic, but he’s expected to draw former UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz as his next opponent.
Ideally, Smith seems to like the idea of Ankalaev as an opponent, but more than anything he just wants to get a fight booked sooner rather than later.
“May or June, I’m ready,” Smith said. “I’m begging for a fight. I’ve just been waiting to see what happens here.”