Alexander Volkanovski is on the cusp of next-level greatness.
With UFC 280 in the rear-view mirror, it’s onto the future and the future is bright for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans. Excluding the UFC 277 Bantamweight title rematch between Julianna Pena and Amanda Nunes, the promotion hasn’t done a new and fresh champion-versus-champion bout in quite some time. That will seemingly change come Feb. 2023.
The reigning Featherweight kingpin, Volkanovski, entered the Octagon at the end of UFC 280, confronting newly crowned Lightweight titleholder, Islam Makhachev, as the two agreed to a showdown for UFC 284 in Perth, Australia on Feb. 12, 2023.
“I don’t want to hold up any divisions, but like I said, I feel like my division’s holding me up, otherwise, I would have fought already,” Volkanovski told Submission Radio. “Even with a broken hand, you’d see me fight this year most likely. Obviously, they want me for that Aussie card so that’s why that was always gonna slow things down for me. But, obviously, I had a broken hand.
“I’ve proved that I’m gonna be active,” he continued. “I want to fight every few months. I didn’t put myself in position to make sure I lock myself in for no reason. There’s a reason. I don’t want to wait around, I want to be active. I’m at my peak right now. Get me to work. Even if it’s two divisions, I’ll defend both of them and I guarantee you I’ll be more active than most champs would in each division.”
Whenever champion-versus-champion bouts are made, they hold up divisions no matter the intentions of those involved. The timing simply never works out to where it doesn’t.
In the case of Featherweight, there isn’t a clear contender in Volkanovski’s division. Top contenders, Josh Emmett and Yair Rodriguez, have made their cases this year with neither appearing to stand out enough for the promotion to give them the next shot at this juncture.
At Lightweight, however, divisional staple, Beneil Dariush, stood out and impressed with a strong unanimous decision win over Mateusz Gamrot at UFC 280. The win re-established him as a clear title threat, and Volkanovski realizes that.
Despite Dariush likely needing to keep waiting, “The Great” is more than content turning right around as quickly as he can to grant him the opportunity he’s earned.
“I actually like Beneil,” Volkanovski said. “Great dude, one of the nicest human beings you’ll ever meet. Nothing but respect to him, he’s in a great position and I love what he’s doing. He’s even talking about because I’m next he’ll fight whoever else he can. He could probably sit if he’s there sidelined, I’ll go take that belt and tell him, ‘Hey, couple of months, let’s do it. Where we doing it?’ But he’d rather fight and I love that.
“If he does fight on that card and I get that belt, I will fight him a couple of months after if I have to,” he continued. “Because he deserves it. I’d rather not keep guys that are doing things like that waiting. If I’m gonna keep anyone waiting I’ll keep the people that are waiting for a title shot waiting. They can wait then, if you know what I’m trying to say there.”