Alexander Volkanovski won the UFC featherweight championship back in December of 2019 and has since defended it twice: once against Max Holloway, who he beat to take the belt. And now again against Brian Ortega at UFC 266 in a fight that may finally earn him the respect he deserves as a dominant champion at 145 pounds.
There’s more interesting opponents for him to face in his division before you can claim he’s cleaned it out, but most of them were knocked back by Holloway and Ortega already. Yair Rodriguez faces Max in what is widely considered to be a #1 contender match in November, so should we really be surprised that Alexander “The Great” is looking for something a bit more interesting than another potential fight against a guy he’s 2-0 against?
“[Holloway vs. Rodriguez] is not until November, and I want to fight,” Volkanovski said during the post-fight press conference. “So, do I move up, fight at lightweight, maybe fight the champion? Give me something, because I had 14 months off because of [COVID-19]. I’m thinking of maybe coming over here [to the [U.S.] to ride out this lockdown thing, because it’s a mess. That’s why I said this fight is for everyone back home that are struggling, they’re going through tough times, New Zealand and Australia.”
Of course, it’s pretty hard to step into the lightweight division and expect a shot at the belt. Champ Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier are currently targeted to face each other in December, so unless Volkanovski wants to throw himself into the meat grinder that is the 155 pound mix, his only other options are waiting ... or Chan Sung Jung?
There was a lot of apparent animosity between Volkanovski and Ortega leading up to their delayed fight, stoked by an appearance as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter. But while they may never be buddies, the respect is definitely there after the war they went through.
“Nothing but respect now. He’s got my respect,” Volkanovski said. “I thought I was going to break him. I thought I broke him after the third round. The ref decided he needed a minute to ask him questions. He wasn’t answering them right. I was looking and he was, y’know, ‘Look this way’ and he was looking the complete other way. ‘Do this, do that, do that,’ he answered every question wrong, and then they waited til he answered them right, and then lets get into it. I was like ‘What’s going on here.’”
“They gave him an extra minute, he literally couldn’t see where he was going. That’s it, it’s over. I go in there, slap on the pressure, and he’s firing back just like he was like nothing happened. So he’s tough and durable. Credit to him.”
Volkanovski also admitted Ortega’s submissions in the third round almost finished the fight.
“It was deep,” he said about a guillotine choke. “It was, ‘Aw f—k, I’m about to lose the belt deep.’ But the type of human being I am, we talk about me going through adversity, always being prepared and busting my ass, never give up attitude and all that s—t, that’s what you seen. I was deep. That was as deep as it can get. No s—t. I remember I was making f—king weird noises ... I don’t remember what noise I made, but it was a weird, ‘Oh, f—k, I hope I don’t lose this belt!’”
“Obviously kept fighting and just opened up a little bit of space and then got my chin out,” he continued. “And then he chucked me in the f—king triangle as well. So it just shows that ‘T-City,’ he’s known for his jiu-jitsu. I thought that he wouldn’t get me that deep. Credit to him.”
For complete UFC 266: “Volkanovski vs. Ortega” results and play-by-play, click HERE.