Alexander Volkanovski is monitoring in the direction of his second UFC featherweight world title protection, but there’s a higher purpose effervescent away below the floor for the 32-year-old Australian: a transfer as much as light-weight.
Volkanovski could not care much less if that is one thing followers aren’t taking significantly. In truth he is prepared to make use of it as additional motivation for a UFC universe that he feels nonetheless does not present him the respect he deserves.
Nevertheless, if it seems that he’s wanting previous a extra rapid featherweight problem that may seemingly come in opposition to Brian Ortega, doubtlessly in February or March subsequent 12 months, that too, just isn’t the case. However on the coronary heart of the Volkanovski lies an unwavering drive to be not simply the best featherweight of all time, however a UFC all-time nice. Interval.
“It’s, that’s one thing that I positively see down the road,” Volkanovski informed ESPN on changing into a multidivision champion. “However I do not discuss it as a result of I’ve jobs to do; I’ve obtained objectives on my thoughts.
“However the factor that individuals have gotten to appreciate is that whereas I may need objectives in entrance of me, they don’t seem to be my finish objectives. So my purpose could be the belt, it could be defending that belt and my purpose continues to be to defend that [featherweight] belt, however I need to be the very best fighter there may be, and that may be a purpose of mine. And to take action, I need to transfer up and struggle [at lightweight] as nicely.
“However once more, I’ve obtained a division that I need to take out, I need to be the very best the featherweights have seen, so I need a few defenses right here. However I positively need to squeeze in a light-weight struggle as nicely.”
The primary thought that involves thoughts when analyzing a possible step as much as light-weight is the peak and energy Volkanovski would possibly concede in a division that boasts a few of the greatest names within the sport.
Whereas Volkanovski’s attain, 71.5 inches, truly holds up fairly nicely in opposition to a lot of these prime light-weight contenders, his leg attain — leg kicks being a key a part of the Australian’s arsenal — is on common 4.5 inches decrease.
However given he as soon as performed rugby league in Australia — only one stage beneath the nation’s Nationwide Rugby League competitors — at 213 kilos, and will actually transfer in doing so, a mere 10-pound weight improve would truly sit fairly nicely.
Nonetheless, Volkanovski is aware of the disdain a possible shift to light-weight would evoke from UFC followers and pundits alike.
“Individuals are going to say what they need,” Volkanovski stated. “For me, I consider that what I’ve carried out, individuals do not perceive the ability that is concerned. Individuals will say that I am all hype or I obtained fortunate as a result of they do not perceive the ability; so in fact you are going to get individuals that may say I can not deal with myself in light-weight.
“However I do not fear about them, as a result of those that know the sport, particularly my opponents, they know the place my stage is, and I’ve skilled with guys a lot larger than me and I nonetheless do and I all the time have. So I understand how I might do in opposition to a few of the finest lightweights on this planet anyway, even the very best welterweights.
“I’ve skilled with so many guys; Dan Hooker; I’ve even skilled with Israel Adesanya, middleweights, so I do know I can maintain my very own in heavier divisions. Individuals are going to doubt me, however I like that, I like proving them flawed.
“And I need individuals to assume that guys like Ortega, or whoever it’ll be after him, I need them to assume that ‘that is the man.’ I need them to hype up our fights as a result of I like proving them flawed. And after I transfer up [they’ll say] ‘he is too small’, no matter. I like these doubters, and it drives me extra, it motivates me extra, and I will simply exit and show them flawed.”
Ortega’s victory over Chan Sung Jung in mid-October, nearly two years after his final struggle within the UFC, gave Volkanovski a transparent No. 1 contender after the Australian had seen off Max Holloway, the person he dethroned for the featherweight strap, then defeated a second time in a cut up resolution in July.
Volkanovski says he would have cherished to have yet one more struggle in 2020, however he’s as a substitute chipping away at his Freestyle Preventing Health club base south of Sydney, serving to out some teammates, awaiting the official paperwork for the Ortega bout and starting of his struggle camp.
“Coaching’s good, it has been enjoyable, as a result of there isn’t any strain; when you do not have a struggle, there isn’t any strain,” he informed ESPN. “However clearly I am nonetheless within the health club doing the rounds.
“We had a few teammates combating, so it was good to have a little bit of focus directed to them, serving to them as a teammate and serving to them put together for his or her camp. So it has been good to ease the thoughts, no strain, I can go to the health club and it is thrilling, it is one thing a bit of bit completely different to what I am often doing.”
In Ortega, Volkanovski agrees there may be an improved fighter, though one he says just isn’t on the identical stage.
“He is the No. 1 contender, in order that’s thrilling. And he is improved loads since earlier than that struggle, in order that makes it thrilling and lots of people are calling him ‘Ortega 2.0’,” Volkanovski stated.
“Once more, I hope individuals assume that he is the man to do it [defeat Volkanovski], and I can show them flawed. I simply really consider in my skills, I feel I am simply an excessive amount of and whoever it’s in entrance of me I am simply going to showcase that each time.
“I see enhancements to what he [Ortega] was, however once more I nonetheless consider it isn’t sufficient. I am on one other stage. There are issues that I did not anticipate him to do [against Jung] that stunned me, that now I am nicely conscious of … he is proven some completely different instruments, however there will not be any surprises if he tries to throw a few of these issues at me.”
As for Holloway, Volkanovski says it is good to see the previous champion doing what “he must do,” in reference to the Hawaiian’s upcoming struggle with Calvin Kattar, to get again for an additional title shot.
After some uncertainty at featherweight, notably round Holloway, Volkanovski is comfortable to see the division shifting once more and says that some “thrilling” fights on the horizon ought to additional clear up defenses that may comply with what he believes shall be a victory over Ortega early subsequent 12 months.
That might be the right begin to a brand new 12 months your complete world is craving.
“How’s everybody’s 2020 been? It has been a loopy 12 months, however I am fortunate sufficient that I’ve nonetheless been capable of make it work,” he informed ESPN. “It might have been higher, however lots of people have had it a lot worse than me.
“2020, we did what we needed to do, we made it work and cruised by way of. However 2021 we’re taking on, we’ll be proper on the prime, and everyone goes to know my identify.”