UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski boldly agreed to a lightweight title rematch with his nemesis Islam Makhachev on just 11 days notice at UFC 294 last year, but it came to be a decision he’d later regret after being KO’d in the opening round.
While Volkanovski has always appeared to be extremely mentally strong, the cracks began to show immediately after the fight as the long-time 145lb titleholder pleaded with the UFC to “keep me busy” because “I don’t do well when I’m not fighting.”
Several months later as he prepares to defend his title against Ilia Topuria at UFC 298 on February 17th, Volkanovski has given some insights into the struggles he had behind-the-scenes leading into that ill-fated fight against Makhachev.
“I’m known for being disciplined all year round, 24/7 and I just wasn’t that time,” Volkanovski told Israel Adesanya’s brother David in a new interview on the FreestyleBender channel. “I was really disappointed. I was more upset with who I was in the previous months leading up to that. To be honest, it made it a little easier because it snapped me out of it. It snapped me out of it. I was drinking every day for like three or four weeks.
“Honestly, that’s unheard of for me. Like (drinking) every day. I’ve never, ever done that. But I was like, ‘Ah, I’m not training much,’ and the surgery and just trying to help around the house I was like, ‘All right, I’ll have a couple of drinks here, they’ll go down good,’ you know what I mean? It was going down too good. Every day I went to cans with the fam and come back and even then I was like, ‘Man, this has to stop.’
“I was saying that even the day I before I got the call. I was (183 pounds) that day [to rematch Makhachev]. I went to my strength and conditioning coach, and we did some tests and I stood on the scale, and I was 83 (kilograms). All the boys in the gym were laughing. I’ve never been that heavy.”
In hindsight it wasn’t the right time to be taking a short-notice fight against the only man to have beaten him in the past decade, but at the time he saw it as an opportunity to re-focus.
“I was like, ‘Let’s do it, I need to snap out of this little rut that I’m in,’” Volkanovski said. “This is exciting, this is a challenge, and this is something I need right now. So I was just a little disappointed that time. Losing is always going to suck, but you lose to a fighter like Islam, it’s OK. I know I can beat him. I’ve proven that, but he caught me. All credit to him. I’m not taking anything away from him. He set up that kick and there’s not much I can say. I was just disappointed with the guy I was leading into that.”
Volkanovski will know that he can afford no such slip-ups ahead of his next fight against an undefeated challenger in the 14-0 Topuria on February 17th, and he’s confident he’ll get back to winning ways on the night.
““He’s already acting like he’s the champion and thinks he’s this,” Volkanovski said of Topuria. “He literally thinks he’s some superstar already. Oh, mate, that all changes Feb. 17 and he’s gonna have a rude shock. He’s gonna have to literally eat a big humble pie and I get to do that. It’s perfect for my storyline right now.”