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Morning Report: Alexander Volkanovski discusses coaching TUF against Brian Ortega: ‘It’s gonna be good fun’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Last month, Alexander Volkanovski was supposed to defend his featherweight title against Brian Ortega at UFC 260. Unfortunately, a week before the event, Volkanovski contracted COVID and the bout was postponed. Even more unfortunately, Volkanovski ended up having a serious reaction to the disease that resulted in two ER visits and a stay in the hospital. With the featherweight champion looking at a longer recovery time, the UFC was not able to schedule a quick turnaround for the bout and instead, to paraphrase Brock Lesnar, they’re making chicken salad out of chicken poop by having Volkanovski and Ortega coach the return of The Ultimate Fighter and Volkanovski at least it excited about the opportunity.

“It was a little bit of a shock,” Volkanovski told Helen Yee. “I was planning on how I was gonna get home, waiting for the negative (COVID) tests and whatnot so I could get home and then literally while that was happening we got wind of the TUF house and were like, ‘Alright’. Then before we knew it, it was locked in so I was like, I guess I’m here to stay. (Laughs).

“It’s gonna be good fun. I cannot wait to go out there. I love being in front of the camera so four, five weeks, however long it is in front of the camera, it’s gonna be good. I’m looking forward to it. It’s gonna be good banter. Obviously a lot knowledge and I just can’t wait.”

Though coaching TUF means Volkanovski and Ortega won’t fight for some time, the delay will provide the featherweight champion an opportunity to adequately recover from his stint with COVID and allow him to ease himself back into training properly, while also helping him expand his profile and work on his television skills. All in all, it’s a huge win considering the state he was in not long ago.

“To be honest, I got wind of it restarting and all that type of stuff and I didn’t think too much about it,” Volkanovski said. “Obviously while I’m fighting I’m just worried about that and then obviously I had COVID and just worried, ‘How do I get home?’ and didn’t think of it and then literally they just brang it up and I was like, ‘Oh man.’ It was a complete surprise. I did not expect that.

“You’ve just got to stay positive through all these things and always look forward and know that it will all work out in the end and that’s exactly what happened. So I’m here to stay, I’m gonna enjoy it, and I’m gonna make the most out of this whole process.”

Of course, the delay in defending the featherweight title doesn’t just affect Volkanovski and Ortega. With the belt now sidelined for another few months, the rest of the division will likewise be left waiting for resolution, chief among them, top contender Max Holloway. Volkanovski and Holloway have already fought twice, with the champion taking decisions in both cases, however their second fight was a hotly contested bout that many believe Holloway should have won. Calls for a trilogy fight have only increased since then as Holloway put forth the Beatdown of the Year against Calvin Kattar in January and though Volkanovski is currently focused on the task at hand, he knows that eventually he and Max will fight one more time.

“Right now, it’s not important because I’ve got to focus on Ortega,” Volkanovski said. “I’ve got to give Ortega the respect that he deserves by knowing that he’s in front but at the same time, every time I do an interview I’m obviously getting asked about it, everyone’s still talking about it. So everyone will want that fight, that fight will always be there and it’s always gonna be a big fight. Again, I always says I’m not scared of no one so even though I am 2-0 against him, obviously that last one was a close one and people want to see it again, so I’m sure it will happen. Right now I’ve got Ortega to worry about and I’m sure once that all happens and the UFC throws some decent money, we can all make some money and we can make that fight happen. But right now, Ortega, I’ve got you on my mind and that’s it.”

The Ultimate Fighter is expected to start filming this month and will air this summer on ESPN+. Volkanovski and Ortega are expected to fight sometime after the season concludes.


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Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.



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