Alex Volkanovski is a man who knows what he wants. The featherweight, who resides in New South Wales with his wife and young daughter, has his eyes set on the big time and with UFC Brisbane just around the corner, the time is now to take a leap of faith and put it all on the line.
Volkanovski started the foundation of his MMA career as a youth wrestler at the local Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC), an unusual past time for a young boy in Australia, but he took to it like a duck on water and soon found himself competing in, and winning, national championships. Despite his natural talent, Volkanovski eventually swapped the tights for rugby shorts, a sport he would play for ten years winning multiple best and fairest, players player awards and the coveted Mick Cronin medal.
Like most athletes Volkanovski utilised MMA as a form of training to keep fit for rugby, but it wouldn’t be long before it became all-consuming, taking two fights in the middleweight division (and winning) during his last season of rugby against men twice the size of him. It was the rush of adrenaline and a new challenge that made Volkanovski realise that behind the cage door was where he truly belonged. And so, his career as a fighter began.
“At first people said I was crazy but now they look back and know it was a good decision.” Volkanovski told Fight News Australia. The initial doubt is understandable, when Volkanovski began MMA the sport was very much in its infancy in Australia; sure the UFC had growing viewership but it’s fair to say that the local fight scene was barely a blip on the radar of country that is sports mad. For Volkanovski the road has been a long and sometimes frustrating one, from cage bans to struggling for legitimacy, the sport of MMA has had its set backs but times are slowly changing with local mixed martial artists starting to receive the recognition they deserve as professional athletes.
Over the course of his career Volkanovski has racked up an impressive 11 victories, and only a single loss, across three divisions before finally finding a home at featherweight. Whilst the weight cut was initially challenging, Volkanovski admits it is getting easier with every fight; a new diet regime in particular meant that he cruised through preparation for his last fight only having to drop a couple of kilos in the sauna before facing Japan’s Yusuku Yachi for the PXC featherweight title last month. A fight he said was his biggest challenge to date.
“Ranking wise he was very well ranked and he was really big, huge in fact. I was not expecting a featherweight to be that big. I honestly thought I’d be stronger and finish the fight quickly but he showed a lot more strength and took me into the fourth round, which I’m not used to. Thankfully, though, I always train for the worst so I’m always fit enough.”
As a man who prides himself on fighting the best, Volkanovski has cemented himself as the one to beat at featherweight in Australia, a title young gun Jamie Mullarkey is keen to take away when they face off at AFC 15 on March 19th in Melbourne. For Volkanovski it was only a matter of time before his path collided with the undefeated Mullarkey (8-0), the Brace featherweight champion has been on an impressive rise to the top of Australian MMA finishing all but one of his eight victories since making his professional debut in 2013. The two, who have trained together in the past, share a mutual respect for each other but Volkanovski is adamant it’s just business as usual.
“I know that Jamie is very tough and he’s definitely going to be at the top for a while but I believe I’m on another level. When I tell people I want to get into the UFC it’s not about getting in, I’m looking to set a statement in the top ranks. I’m not going to the UFC just to make it. I’m already looking past that, I’m looking all the way. Now I’m focused on Jamie and I’ll push for UFC but that if that doesn’t happen, me and Jamie will put on a show.”
It’s no secret that Volkanovski is gunning for a spot on the UFC Brisbane card which is held the same weekend as AFC 15. He recently posted a statement on his Facebook page noting that he would be defending his title at AFC but will also be training with the full intention of accepting an invitation from the UFC should he get the opportunity. Volkanovski, and his fans, have not been quiet on the subject matter orchestrating a hashtag campaign (#SignVolkanovski) which can be seen blowing up twitter timelines across the globe to capture the attention of UFC brass.
“I want to have an Australian UFC champion and if Dana gives me that shot, I’m getting better all the time, and there’s a good chance I can make it all the way. They want impressive fights? They say it’s a business and they want to entertain? I’m all about that. I’m all about finishes, I’m all about making statements. I’m always thinking how I’m going to knock this guy out. It’s always on my mind, so if they want an entertaining fight, sign me up.”
AFC 15 takes place at The Melbourne Pavilion on the 19th March 2016 whilst UFC Fight Night 84 takes place at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on the 20th March 2016.