Interviews: UFC debutants Alex Volkanovski and Tyson Pedro ahead of UFC Fight Night Melbourne

Alex Volkanovski (13-1) makes his long awaited UFC debut tomorrow against Japanese fighter Yusuke Kasuya (9-2). After originally scheduled on the UFC Fight Night Manila card against Jon Tuck, Volkanovski will now make his first appearance for the promotion on home soil.

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When asked about the decision to change his name from Alex ‘The Hulk’ Volkanovski to Alex ‘The Great’ Volkanovski he explained why the latter was more appropriate.

“The Hulk doesn’t really work… I’m a midget not some big front rower Rugby League player”. He then continued, “Obviously my heritage being Macedonian and Greek.. its something I can give back because I have a lot of support coming from the Macedonian and Greeks”.

Many fans have felt that Volkanovski should’ve been in the UFC quite some time but he is convinced that this is all a part of his journey.

“its been a long time coming… It’s happened for a reason and that’s the way I look at it.” He then added, “Come Sunday, I’m going to show everyone why I should’ve been here a long time ago”.

He then touched on his opponent and whether he is worried about having to make a statement on Sunday.

“I’m not worried about making a statement…I’m going to be smart but my style is aggressive. He is tough and can take a hit but I hit really hard even as a featherweight moving up to lightweight. I’ll be looking for that KO and I’m confident in my abilities.”

Tyson Pedro (4-0) is another top Australian prospect who makes his UFC debut against formidable striker Khalil Rountree (4-1).

Pedro was excited with the opportunity to fight in the world’s biggest promotion but realized he had to get straight back into work with only having 3 weeks’ notice before the event.

“I was excited for about a week but as soon as I realized how much time I had for training I had to move straight into fight mode. He then touched on his emotional state leading up to the biggest fight of his career, “I’m very lucky I don’t get nervous… it’s just another fight.”

Many fans believe Pedro has what it takes to compete within the UFC light heavyweight division but some have questioned if the move was premature.

“I like the step up and every fight I’ve had has been a big jump. I’ve been training with people at this level for a long time now and been training with former UFC athletes… I feel ready.”

His opponent, Khalil Rountree, is a dynamic striker who has shown in the past that he can take opponents out with one explosive movement. However, Pedro feels confident he can negotiate his opponent’s flair.

“Its whatever opportunities that he creates for me to take advantage of.. That’s what mixed martial arts is about and that’s how I will win”.

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Sam Mangioni