At UFC 276, Adesanya won a listless decision over Jared Cannonier, retaining his middleweight title and drawing the ire of fans who were expecting the highlight-reel performance Adesanya promised beforehand. The clear but uninspiring win was the third such performance for Adesanya, and as such, “The Last Stylebender” drew criticism for his overly cautious approach. It’s something Volkanovski thinks is absurd.
“Of course it is [unfair]. It’s going to happen every time. Every time you have tough fights,” Volkanovski said recently on The MMA Hour. “The thing is, people need to understand when someone only has a puncher’s chance, and that is all they’re looking for. Come on, man. Why does a champion have to take all the risks? Why does he have to come forward when he knows someone is waiting for a big shot? The person, the challenger, obviously if things aren’t going their way — and I’m not having a shot at Cannonier — I think they need to make something happen. I don’t think it’s up to the champ to make something happen.”
Adesanya agrees with his teammate. In the immediate aftermath of the performance, the middleweight champion said he had an off night, however Adesanya later changed his tune, saying it wasn’t his best performance but that he’s nonetheless pleased with how he managed the fight, noting that a number all-time great champions — such as Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva — faced similar criticisms during their reigns. Volkanovski concurs, saying that once it’s all said and done, people won’t ask how, they’ll ask how many.
“Everyone knows that they need to try and get in on Izzy,” Volkanovski said. “Sitting back and just letting Izzy piece you up on the outside, I believe that’s totally on the challenger. Put it this way: If he had done that little bit more, it would have been a completely different fight, and then everyone would have been talking about how great of a knockout [it was]. That’s the thing, people quickly forget.
“I’m not having a shot at everyone. At the end of the day, people are going to remember how many defenses you had. Look, he goes and fights [Alex] Pereira and knocks him clean out, you think they’re going to be talking about that one [against Cannonier]? No, they’re going to quickly forget and he’s going to be glad he didn’t take any stupid, unnecessary risks to please a couple of people. Obviously I’m sticking up for my boy, but I think that’s fair. I think that’s how it is. That is going to happen sometimes.”
Ultimately, Volkanovski believes this criticism will pass soon enough.
Adesanya is next expected to defend his belt against Alex Pereira. It’s the third time they’ve met following a pair of past kickboxing fights that were won by Pereira and a championship bout promises fireworks.
Though the matchup does not have an official date set, when the time comes, Volkanovski believes his teammate is going to avenge his kickboxing losses and silence the haters.
“People will quickly forget. Same as [Kamaru] Usman,” Volkanovski said. “People were giving him criticism and now he’s going and knocking people out, and that’s it — now he’s the man, and well-deserved. They should be looking at him like that. I think Izzy’s going to go do his thing against Pereira and then everyone’s going to be all over him.”