No. 1 an underdog? Alexander Volkanovski on why we shouldn’t doubt him
Alexander Volkanovski is recognized by Sportzshala as the best fighter in the world, regardless of weight category. He has never lost in the UFC, posting an impressive 12-0 record since his debut in 2016. The Australian has won 22 fights in a row and has four successful defenses of the UFC featherweight title.
However, despite all this eye-popping praise, Volkanovski will be a +320 underdog (according to Caesars Sportsbook) when he takes on Islam Makhachev for the UFC lightweight title on Saturday in the main event of UFC 284 in Perth, Western Australia. (10:00 pm ET on Sportzshala+ PPV).
Makhachev, the dominant wrestler from the Russian Republic of Dagestan, will have a 4-inch height advantage and many believe he will also have a strength advantage over the featherweight champion. Makhachev takes 2nd place in the Sportzshala rating.
In view of the rarity of such a situation, Sportzshala’s Mark Raimondi asked Volkanovski to explain why he accepted this challenge if he considers himself an underdog and how he feels he fits in with his opponent.
I used to play front row rugby before I started training in MMA. At 5 feet 6 inches, I have always been short. I might have been heavier then, but I was the shortest guy on the field. The little people playing rugby league were still bigger than me.
You should have seen the other team’s big front rowers grinning when we were in packs and fights. I knew these mountains of men I had to run were thinking to themselves, “Look at the size of this guy.”
The next minute they can’t touch me. The next minute after that they are all planning a game to try and slow me down because I am ruining their team. I have always been short and have always proven that doubters are wrong. This happens every time. And it will happen on Saturday.
That’s when I, the UFC Featherweight Champion, move up the division to face Islam Makhachev for the UFC Lightweight Championship in the main event at UFC 284 in Perth, Western Australia. Yes, he’s bigger than me at 5’10 and I’m moving up in weight class. But I’ve been there before.
Islam is a small child compared to these heavyweights I’ve seen in rugby league.
The smaller guys are like light heavyweights. Absolute monsters. Are you saying that light weight will scare me? No. He is good? Yes, that’s him. I’ll give him that respect, but I won’t back down and I won’t worry.
He will be bigger than me, but all my life everyone has been bigger and that has never been a problem. So now I won’t let that be a problem.
Some people have asked me why I do this. I’m the featherweight champion. I could stay at 145 and take on opponent after opponent. I still intend to do it, but why not challenge yourself?
I’m not doing this to say “I’m cool” and whatever happens will happen. I do this because I believe I will win. And I sincerely believe in it. In my preparation, I believe in myself. And I want people – outsiders or undersized people, whoever they are – to believe in themselves, take on challenges and challenge themselves. We must do this every day of our lives. I have done this throughout my entire career. I’ve been doing this since the beginning and that’s what made me who I am.
I’m already the #1 fighter in the world. I don’t have to prove anything, but I’m going to go out there and show you why you picked me #1. There’s no better way to prove it than to rise up and take on the next guy below you in the rankings, the champion. divisions above. Do you want to talk about pound by pound? I risk everything to show you that I deserve first place.
Yes, it’s a challenge. But look at the rewards you get by taking on these challenges. Not only the inheritance and your bank account, but do you know how much better a fighter I will become because of this? Do you know how much better I will be because of this?
I improved my strength, takedown defense and even grappling. I was doing a bulking and strength program and it was crazy how noticeable the changes were. I respect Islam, their team and their strength, so I knew that I had to prove myself in this regard. I knew that I had to get stronger.
So, I put it in my head, and overnight I had this mindset. Because I knew I had to, my hips stubbornly defended against the takedown. Like right away. My hips were like, “I’m not taking anything.” That’s all. The people who fought me before not only felt the difference in body shape, but they instantly felt that power and said, “Oh, this is vastly different.”
I also worked a lot on wrestling and ground play with the Hickman brothers, excellent trainers with specific MMA knowledge who train in City Kickboxing and Bangtao Muay Thai in Thailand, and with Craig Jones, one of the best grapplers in the world and Brazilian Jiu. – Jitsu expert. Jones studied these guys from Dagestan to understand why they are so good. And he sits there, making circles and circles and circles to understand these positions, to put himself in these positions. And you have to remember, Craig Jones weighs between 210 and 220 pounds. It’s funny because people say that I need to beware of Islam. Can you imagine what Craig Jones would do with Islam or these guys? It’s just a different world when it comes to grappling.
I think 2023 will be my year and I want to start off with a buzz. And there is no better way to do it. I’m #1 pound for pound and then you win a second belt. It’s not for me to decide, but you’re going from a great fighter to one of the greatest fighters of all time. You’re in the category where people say, “This guy does things no one else does.” I’m starting to separate from the rest. So, it’s massive.
I am glad that Islam is the enemy. I do think that Charles Oliveira would have been an easier opponent. Islam, being an adversary, makes it even more. It will solidify me as No. 1 pound for pound – and no one can take that away from me. There is no better way to prove it than to go out, raise your hand, get another belt and beat Islam Makhachev, who should be much bigger than me, much stronger than me, bad match for me.
Like I said, this is familiar to me. I’ve always been short, from rugby to MMA. And I’ve always proven that the doubters were wrong. Yes, at first glance they can smirk. But it always changes, especially in the octagon. It will happen again on Saturday when I win two divisions against my fellow Australians in Perth.