Aussie’s mission to shut up UFC ‘bullies’
"THEY want to be marketable by talking crap and playing the bad guy? I'll be marketable by taking them all out."
Aussie brawler Alexander Volkanovski is on a mission to take out the bullies in the UFC, and he's got the game to back it up.
With a professional MMA record of 17-1, and 4-0 in the UFC, Volkanovski, the former concreter out of New South Wales continued his rise in the organisation with a dominant second round stoppage of previously undefeated Canadian Jeremy Kennedy at UFC 221 in Perth two weeks ago.
It was supposed to be a tightly-contested matchup; pitting two guys with 3-0 records in the UFC together, to see who would move up the featherweight division rankings. Instead, it was an absolute mismatch, a veritable masterclass from Volkanovski.
"It's good to take out someone from North America," Volkanovski told foxsports.com.au.
"11-0, 3-0, undefeated [Kennedy in the UFC] - he was a hot prospect. I know a lot of the guys in the UFC might not love his style, but they knew he was a dangerous fighter."
It was a performance that turned some heads, but for Volkanovski, whose infectious confidence flows endlessly throughout his 5'6" frame, it simply reaffirmed what he already knew.
"The way I walked through him, I really think that's definitely going to put me right up there.
"Like I said, I always knew I was, but now the world knows that I'm very dangerous and I deserve to be up the top."
Volkanovski's confidence feels authentic, the type that makes you begin to believe, rather than shrug off as just another fighter's excess bravado.
By no means has it been an easy journey for the Aussie, who had to work for his father's concreting business to make a living as he pursued a career in MMA.
"It's pretty crazy. MMA is a tough sport - financially, physically, mentally - it's a very, very tough sport," Volkanovski said when reflecting on his start.
"Especially in the local circuit, trying to chase a dream. I always knew I could make the UFC.
"You know it was hard, I wanted to do this full-time, but you just couldn't. So you had to concrete at the same time, and right now I'm not concreting, so it's going alright - we're moving up, things are starting to get better.
"I want to be set up for life - I need some big wins, and obviously the right things need to happen so I can never concrete again."
And he's hungry for more. Volkanovski plans to fight three more times before the year is up; that's if the UFC will let him.
The 29-year-old called out "the bullies" in his post-fight interview in Perth, who for him, represent those in the organisation that seemingly do more talking than fighting.
"You see people talk a lot, and think that's the only way to go about things nowadays. It bores me now; I find it pretty cringe-worthy when I see everyone trying to do it."
As for his next fight, Volkanovski just wants a challenge, "I just want something in the top-10, top-15, even, someone that is going to shoot me through the ranks," he said.
"There are a couple of guys that aren't matched up yet, you've got your Dooho Choi's [No. 13] and even Mirsad Bektic [No. 12]."
Having trained in New Zealand at City Kickboxing prior to his last fight, Volkanovski says he "levelled" up his stand-up game, and sees his immediate future as the perfect time to hone in on his training.
"I'm a mixed martial artist - I believe I'm one of the most well-rounded.
"There's a lot of people who are good at Jiu Jitsu, good at wrestling, good at striking, but I believe I put it together almost better than anyone in the UFC.
"I'm just going to keep levelling up that way, work on getting more explosive, getting even stronger, fitter, and then you're just going to see a whole other beast."
Fitness and health are a major focus for Volkanovski, who has had to deal with multiple obstacles in the lead-up to some of the biggest fights in his career.
"I can fight in five weeks if I want, but it's good because my last few camps, almost every fight in the UFC, I've been injured or something's happened," Volkanovski explained.
"So I haven't really had a chance to evolve - it was just, recover from the injury and then get fit enough for the fight."
"Right now, I'm training to get better. So I'm going to make the most of that for like a month and a bit, and then get straight back into it.
"As soon as they give me a name, I'll start focusing on that. But right now I'm focusing on keeping fit, staying in good shape just in case something comes up."
The featherweight title is the goal and isn't too far away, explains Volkanovski, who sees his rise up the rankings as a certainty.
"If I get three fights this year, that's seven wins on the trot, and I'm expecting to take out the top guys in the next three,"
"Early next year I could definitely be right up there for a shot. Like I said I'm going to get better and better, I'm going to stay in good nick, I'm going to try my best not to get injured.
"And when I'm in good nick, I can really, really dominate. In the UFC I haven't lost a round, probably 50% of the rounds are 10-8 rounds. I'm walking through my opponents."
Volkanovski fights with a composure and maturity that not many with his limited experience in the UFC are able to achieve.
"That's just sort of what I do. A lot of people they listen to their crazy music to amp them up, where I'm totally different," said Volkanovski.
"I try and stay really composed, and clam and collected so I know what I'm doing."
"I don't just wait and explode to hit someone, I'm always changing my rhythm, I'm always things in broken rhythm, and making the right decisions, and making them constantly worry about what I'm doing."
"I believe it's starting to show. I'm still not as composed as I'd like to be in the cage - especially on the feet, on the ground I'm getting really composed, but on the feet I'm doing the right things but I can be a lot more composed, and once I get a bit more experience in there, I'm going to be dangerous."
"I'm going to be dangerous." That last line is accompanied with a smirk and a chuckle fuelled by his enduring competitive energy.
Volkanovski pin points mid-May or possibly June for his next outing, one he expects to take place in the U.S.
"That is the plan for the next fight," he confirmed.
"There's no names or cards yet, but I'm looking at a couple of months over there [America], and the matchmakers are happy with that. They want me over there."