Going through an undefeated run in the UFC, Alexander Volkanovski has been an unstoppable force in the featherweight division, staking up 4 dominant title defences and is on his way to potentially becoming the champion of the lightweight division.
In the lead-up to most of his fights, Volkanovski has been the betting favourite and has carried that confidence moving forward. However, this time around, in his bout with Islam Makhachev, Volkanovski has opened up as a massive betting underdog in his attempt to capture lightweight gold.
The Aussie has made a recent appearance on the MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani and has given his thoughts on his upcoming fight with the Dagestani champ.
“I like it. I’m all good with it,” Volkanovski said on The MMA Hour. “Especially moving up and the lightweight title and all that type of stuff, and then fighting someone like this — again, we want this for legacy. I never used to talk like this. If you remember, I never talked about legacy fights and all this type of stuff, but now I’m all about it. Now I’m all for the big fights. I love the underdog story. I love being the underdog and people saying I’m undersized and all that type of stuff. It just adds to the story and it’s going to add to the victory.
“There are going to be a lot of people that are going to doubt me, which I love, and all that type of stuff — ‘I’m undersized, he’s too good at the Dagestani wrestling,’ and all this type of stuff. That’s good. But just remember that. Remember that. Don’t change the narrative when I get my hand raised. That’s something that I need people to understand because it’s funny — people will sit there and say all this stuff. If something happens [and I win], ‘Oh yeah, [Makhachev] didn’t fight anybody. It was his first defence.’ All of a sudden, they’re taking away the victory and acting like he isn’t that person that they said he was before the fight.
“Just remember what you’re saying he is now. You’re putting him on that pedestal — keep him there even if I get my hand raised. Don’t change that bulls***.”
If the Windang native can pull off one of the greatest upsets in history at UFC 284, he will have joined the ranks of Connor McGregor, Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes and Henry Cejudo as the fifth fighter to claim the double champ status.
However, the Aussie has repeatedly stated that Makhachev is no easy feat and will be the toughest challenge he will face in his career. Volkanovski and his team have been preparing for every scenario the Dagestani Wrestler might throw at them and is confident that the Aussie can implement his game regardless of the takedown threat.
“Obviously, we know where the advantages are going to be for me and where the advantages [are] he’s going to have,” Volkanovski said. “He wants it on the ground, and I want it on the feet, it’s pretty simple. And for people who are going to be like, ‘Oh, his striking is underrated,’ it definitely is. If you’re looking at just combos and all that stuff, yeah, it’s not the prettiest, it’s not like he has the best setups and things, but he’s still calculating. He’s not going to take unnecessary risks. He’s not going to put himself too much out of position the majority of the time. Maybe when he chooses to strike and things like that, he does, but a lot of the time he’s a bit defensive, and he’ll wait for the right time to shoot.
“So, he’s calculated, the same as Khabib was and a lot of these Dagestani wrestlers and these high-level grapplers, which is great.
“But at the same time, you’ve got to remember my striking,” Volkanovski continued. “I understand all these things. I can’t give too much away, but you could do all these things. I’m aware of what you want to do. I’m aware of the patterns. I totally understand the game. I really do. I understand my style, I understand your style. I’ve got a great team. We’ve got the knowledge, and not just that, I’ve got the fight IQ to really, really capitalize on things that we see. So, there are definitely things that I can capitalize on, and I will.
“So, I’m prepared to go wherever it needs to go. You ain’t going to see me panic.”
Makhachev is coming after that No. 1 pound-for-pound spot and is currently No. 2 on that list. The Russian has demolished every fighter that has stood in his way; however, he was caught once and suffered a knockout loss to Adriano Martins at UFC 192. Makhachev has racked up an impressive 11-fight win streak over some top-level talent in the lightweight division. With his most recent victory over the former lightweight champ Charles Oliveira, the Dagestani showed the world that there are levels to this game and was able to dominate and submit the guy with the most submission victories in the UFC.