The road to this weekend’s UFC event in Sydney has not been a straightforward one for Alex Volkanovski. Multiple opponent pull outs left the Shellharbour based fighter wondering if he would eventually miss out on the opportunity to fight so close to home.
Originally set to fight Jeremy Kennedy, a race against the clock ensued as Volkanovski’s second scheduled opponent, Humberto Bandenay, pulled out only 11 days before they were set to fight.
Climbing the ranks of the UFC does not always involve big pay days and If you don’t fight, you don’t get paid. With a young family that includes a nine-week old newborn, Volkanovski desperately needed to stay on the card.
“If I’m fighting regularly I can manage (money wise), I gave up concreting so I could train full-time and chase the dream. I am in the UFC now and just managing isn’t good enough, I want to take out these belts and make some money” Volkanovski told Fight News Australia.
With the fight being only eleven days away when his latest opponent pulled out, there was some concern that it would be too late to find a replacement.
“I’ve been told I am hard to get matched up with so when Humberto pulled out it was a bit of a worry, I need to make money, but I remained positive and had faith that Sean Shelby (UFC matchmaker) would find someone to fight me.”
Undefeated in five years with a 15-1 record that includes twelve finishes and two wins inside the octagon, it is not surprising that Volkanovski is hard to be matched up with.
A former rugby league front rower who once weighed a whopping 97 kilograms, Volkanovski started his career as a middleweight. Now competing as a featherweight in the UFC, a division 30kg less than what he once weighed, he feels that he still carries that heavyweight strength.
“I would be a strong guy in the welterweight division.” He said.
These featherweights really do not understand until they feel my strength how much stronger I am than them, my pressure as well. Pressure is one thing that once they feel it, it will have a lot of people puzzled. Once I am actually in front of them and once I grab hold of them and put the pressure on, after that, I just see people fold within minutes and I believe I can do that to anyone in the division.
Despite the intimidating prospect of fighting the Aussie on such short notice, Kiwi fighter Shane Young agreed to take on the challenge at a catch weight of 150lbs (68kg). Young, who typically also fights at featherweight, has won his last five fights in a row and is 11-3 as a professional.
“He’s a good technical striker, he comes from a good camp and I am happy for him to make the UFC, he seems like a good bloke, but I need to win this thing for my family.” Volkanovski said.
Calling your opponent a ‘good bloke’ before you are set to punch him in the face is not always a common feature of today’s MMA athletes. With fighters talking trash in an attempt to attract eye-balls, Volkanovski has decided to take the opposite route.
“I know everyone is playing their game and everyone’s trying to hype up fights and all this shit. But a lot of that shit is getting old to me.” He said.
Volkanovski has made it well known that he is not a fan of some of the trash talking antics that take place in MMA and that he is keen to shut them up.
“I want them bad guys because they are bullies and I don’t like bullies.
“I’d love to give them a beating and then apologies after it. That’s my thing, be the nice guy, beat them up and say sorry after it.”
With the UFC announcing they will do a pay-per-view event in Perth in February, the plan for Volkanovski is to win well in Sydney and get a ranked fighter for the event.
“I want to put on a good performance, get that 50gs, and call out one of these bad boys for the Perth Card.
“Jeremy Stephens or Andre Fili, they talk a bit of shit and call people out, well they can call me out.”
UFC Fight Night 121 takes place this Sunday at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney.