Alexander Volkov faced a slew of distractions and personal hurdles in the weeks and days leading up to his fight at UFC London as he prepared to travel to the event from his home in Russia.
There was some concern that the veteran heavyweight wouldn’t even be able to fight due to the ongoing conflict following the Russian invasion into the Ukraine that has disrupted travel as well as potential visa issues that could arise. The UFC actually attempted to get Volkov to London much earlier than his eventual arrival but it turns out he had even more happening at home that prevented him from traveling.
“The case is that a month and a half before the fight, I got COVID a second time,” Volkov explained at UFC London media day. “So to prepare myself, I needed a full camp and I couldn’t spare even a week without the preparation with a full time, the sparring and everything.
“We’re very grateful to the UFC that they’re trying to help us get to the fight earlier but I couldn’t. We were quite sure that we would be able to get here. It turned out to be OK.”
According to Volkov, he would normally only need a few hours in the air to go from Russia to the United Kingdom but there were so many issues surrounding travel out of his home country that it resulted in a long, tumultuous flight.
“It was a concern for me, too,” Volkov said about getting to UFC London. “We were afraid we wouldn’t be able to pass Russian customs [or] any other customs because as normal people we have no idea what’s happening to the customs. Everyday comes new laws and stuff.
“The only difference for me right now was that I flew almost for a day. Before it was four hours [to travel to London]. Usually, I would be here in four hours but I spent in the flight the same time that I would go to the U.S. and back.”
Volkov is looking at another 24-hour flight just to make it home again after his bout on Saturday but he’s already reconciled with the difficulties he’ll face getting back to Russia.
Of course beyond travel issues and dealing with a second COVID-19 infection, Volkov also had to deal with the reality all Russians are facing right now due to the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine.
Sanctions from governments around the world have bombarded the Russian economy and new laws in the country have essentially ended independent media.
Volkov says he actually took it a step further by just shutting off the news because he had to do his best to stay focused and put all of his attention on the upcoming fight against Tom Aspinall.
“The preparation for the fight is always hard even without all of this,” Volkov said. “The only way I was able to prepare was I turned off my social media networks and everything. I stopped reading any news. It was the only way for me to prepare.
“Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to prepare or do anything on training. So it’s very hard but being professional and to exclude yourself from all the informational fields is the only way to prepare for the fight.”
Despite all these issues, Volkov never contemplated pulling out of the fight or delaying the matchup to a later date.
“Even in hard times, you have to be professional and I was professional,” Volkov said. “I was doing everything in my part training, preparing and getting here to make the fight for the fans and the UFC. I have to be professional in these circumstances.”
Thanks to all the hard work and effort to get to UFC London, Volkov will be greeted by a raucous and rowdy audience undoubtedly siding with their home country fighter in Aspinall.
That kind of reception might rattle some but Volkov doesn’t expect any different and he’s happy to play the role of the villain in the main event.
“There is always a heel and face in this business and right now I am the heel but I am happy with it,” Volkov said. “Because if the fight has attention, has a story, has power behind it, I’m very happy.
“It’s always great when fans, let’s say are interested in the fight. They want to see me losing, see him winning. It’s always good for business. I’m happy with it.”