Alexander Volkanovski wishes The Korean Zombie’s corner had saved their fighter before Herb Dean had to.
In the main event of UFC 273 this past weekend, Volkanovski put his featherweight title on the line against Korean Zombie (also known as Chan Sung Jung), and it was a one-sided affair. Volkanovski beat Zombie pillar to post, out-striking him by a margin of 138 to 48 before finally securing a stoppage in the fourth round. It was the best performance of Volkanovski’s career thus far, but one the champion wishes could have been stopped slightly sooner.
“I was obviously happy with the finish,” Volkanovski told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I wanted it a little bit earlier, but we ended up getting it. He was tough, man. He ate some shots, he really did. Obviously he lived up to that Zombie name. My hands were hurting. I remember landing jabs and punches and my hands were hurting, that’s how clean they were hitting. They were hitting flush, and he would be wobbled and rocked and just come straight back to it, and I’d just do it again.
“I probably rocked him like five, six times in there, maybe more. By the end of it, I’m glad Herb stopped it, because I felt like he definitely had enough. I think he was ready. He sort of knew it was over. He was defeated already, let’s get him back home to the family healthy.”
Volkanovski isn’t the only person who felt that way. Near the end of the third round, Volkanovski hurt Zombie again and was on the verge of finishing the fight, but Zombie did just enough to be saved by the bell. Between rounds, the commentary team suggested that Zombie’s corner should stop the fight. But when they didn’t, it prompted Volkanovski to even check in on his opponent before resuming the beatdown.
“In the third round, I wanted to get that finish,” Volkanovski said. “I was very close, maybe a couple seconds — he did well, he’s tough, where I was just about to get the finish and he rolled a little bit more and then just held out for when that buzzer went. But seeing him in the corner, he was sitting on the ground, he was done. Like I said, he was defeated. Even when he got up and was playing with his eye and was even wobbling to the center, I was [wondering] whether it’s legit, which means it’s over anyway, or was it a sign to the ref and the commission like, ‘I’m done.’ Was that him asking for [the fight to be stopped]. That’s sort of what I felt, so I just said to him, ‘Mate, are you sure you want to keep doing this?’ I don’t know if he understood me, but he’s like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ and I’m like, ‘Are you sure? Alright.’
“I think Herb knew where it was at, because I was like, come on, just stop it. I even said it a few times. So he was just like I’ll give him one last little chance but as soon as he eats a couple, he was gonna call it. So a lot of people knew it was done. Sometimes people being so tough, it’s worse for their own good. You don’t want to see them taking damage, especially where you could see he wasn’t really landing flush. Every time he did land, I saw them coming. I saw pretty much everything coming. Everyone knew it was pretty much over so I’m glad he stopped it.”
Dean fortunately saved Zombie from taking a further beating, stopping the bout basically as soon as Volkanovski landed his first hard punches, but in the aftermath, the bout once again raises the hot-button topic of corner stoppages in MMA, and why this sport seems to lag so far behind other combat sports like boxing and kickboxing. And like other MMA luminaries have argued, Volkanovski believes it stems mostly from corners being afraid to make the tough decision and risk alienating their fighter.
“It’s tough. You’ve got to remember what the MMA fighters are like as well,” Volkanovski said. “You take an opportunity away from them and they all feel like it’s quitting, you quitting for them. I think that’s what they worry about. Maybe they worry, ‘I think my student is gonna be more angry with me if I stop it than they would by me taking care of them,’ which they shouldn’t care, but at the same time they’re weighing their options. They’re like, ‘He’s gonna be very unhappy, why’d you do it, why didn’t you let me go out on my shield?’ That type of stuff. I think it’s that ego and that type of mentality a lot of mixed martial artists have. But again, it shouldn’t really matter. You should just look after your [fighter]. But in the heat of the moment, he was still in it. It wasn’t like he was literally out of it, but he was definitely defeated. But it wasn’t long before the ref stopped it, so it was alright.”