Alexander Volkanovski plans to return to the octagon next year, and he hopes it will be headlining a show in his home country.
At UFC 276, Volkanovski successfully defended his featherweight title for the fourth time, winning a dominant unanimous decision victory over former champion Max Holloway. The win put a stamp on Volkanovski’s rivalry with Holloway and vaulted him to the top spot in the MMA Fighting pound-for-pound rankings. According to Volkanovski, it also finally earned him the respect he deserves from fans and everyone else.
“There’s a lot of biased bulls*** that I had to deal with,” Volkanovski told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “Obviously, Max is a well-loved guy and some of the s*** that I had to deal with, even in that second fight, but after it, all of it. Obviously you’re going to get your haters every time, but you can’t worry about that. But you know, there was a lot of bias everywhere. I’m not going to get into it. I don’t need to. I think people understand.
“Would you say I’ve been fairly treated as champ the whole time? From fans, UFC, anyone? It’s pretty easy to understand. A lot of people wouldn’t have wanted me to be champion. That’s why I looked at the camera and said, ‘What now? None of you can say s***. Shut your mouth.’ So that was what it was about. And that was to a lot of people, not just fans. It wasn’t me angry, it was just like, ‘Now you can jump on board. Now you can act like you are all about it,’ when clearly a lot of them weren’t. Maybe it was a chip on my shoulder. That’s why I wanted that third fight for a long time. ...
“Right now, I feel like I’m in a position where I can call the shots, and I can have those conversations that I didn’t feel like I could have before, when now I can. Now I’m getting that respect from everyone, which I think is deserved.”
Although Volkanovski declined to air any specific grievances, the featherweight champion previously mentioned a desire to defend his title in his home country of Australia, a request that has yet to be fulfilled. A lot of that can be attributed to the rise of COVID-19 and related travel restrictions for Australia, but with the UFC’s rumored return Down Under early next year, Volkanovski wants that to be his return fight.
“It’s pretty hard to tell [how long recovery will be],” he said. “When can I punch with this again? Eleven weeks, I’ll be able to punch again and have full contact. But obviously, I want to have a camp and things like that. So I think realistically, we could do something in December. But look, I want to be active, and obviously this slowed me down, and they’re coming to Australia in the first quarter of next year, and I need to defend my belt, or I need to fight in Australia. I think I deserve that.
“So, whether I try to squeeze something in before that — me squeezing, that’s me rushing things — or do I just do what obviously everyone in Australia deserves. It’s what I want, and the UFC would be very happy to have me headline a card over there, as well. So that’s probably what will happen, in a fight for the lightweight title in the early quarter of the year.”
Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev will face off for the vacant lightweight title in October at UFC 280. While Volkanovski could face the winner, doing so in Australia could be seen as a big advantage and a show of favoritism toward the featherweight champion.
Volkanovski thinks fair is fair.
“The winner in Australia, why not?” he said. “I think some of them might sit there and be like, ‘Oh, why should we fight over there?’ Listen, I deserve it. Pretty much every single one of my fights has been overseas. I’ve defended all of my belts not on home territory this whole time. So I’m sure whoever wins the belt, they can miss out here and there as well. So we’ll see. At the end of the day, I’m the type of guy, I’ll fight anywhere – I just think we deserve to fight here.”
Three of Volkanovski’s first four UFC bouts took place in Australia, but the champ hasn’t fought on home soil since stopping Jeremy Kennedy at UFC 221, long before winning the belt. A return to Australia as the featherweight champion and top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, attempting to win his second title in the UFC, that’s the sort of marquee event that could sell out the 50,000-seat capacity Marvel Stadium in Melbourne. Volkanovski hopes that’s a possibility.
“We haven’t had that conversation,” he said. “It depends. I think a stadium show would be good, but obviously that happens very, very rarely. It’s something that sometimes the UFC doesn’t like doing, and I get it, because it’s so big and the atmosphere sometimes feels a little different because it’s not as compact. So I don’t know. I haven’t had those conversations, but of course I’d love the Marvel Stadium or something like that.”
Whatever happens next for Volkanovski, though, he expects it’s going to be big. The featherweight champion has beaten everyone the UFC has put in front of him, and with a newly signed contract reported to be one of the biggest in divisional history, he is ready to do big business.
“Obviously these are conversations you have, but it was never something that was locked in,” Volkanovski said about a lightweight title shot. “I’m the type of guy, I want to be busy. If it’s not now, it can be later as well. I’ve always looked at it that way. But at the same time, it’s something that we talked about, and they know that I deserve it, too. I think we’re all on board, and we all think it’s fair, so right now we’re in a good position.”