Newly crowned featherweight Alexander Volkanovski has a world of possibilities before him, and he’s open to making sure the previous champion is firmly in his rear view before moving on.
Volkanovski won a five-round unanimous decision over Max Holloway in the co-main event of UFC 245 on Saturday in Las Vegas, ending Holloway’s three-year run as featherweight champion. He also snapped Holloway’s 14-fight win streak at 145 pounds.
Given Holloway’s achievements and the UFC’s tendency to reward long-reigning champions with immediate rematches, it’s understandable that a second go-around with Holloway would be proposed. For his part, Volkanovski is all for it.
“I think he deserves it,” Volkanovski said at the evening’s post-fight press conference. “Do I have to beat him to prove that I’m a better fighter? I think we had five rounds to do it, and I’m pretty sure I won it pretty clearly. But anyway, if people are still going to doubt, they’re still gonna. But again, I’ll be ready for it and he does deserve it. That would make for a big fight. Of course I’m down. I’ll be better prepared the next time. I know what we know works, (and) we’re gonna get an even better formula.
“He might think he’ll get me figured out again, but I’m just too powerful. They go one way, I go another. That’s the thing. I’m so well-rounded I can just go anywhere with it. If he was really fixing me up on the feet and I had to grind it, look for takedowns, I could always go there. That’s the thing, I’ve got so many ways to go, even striking there’s so many ways to go. I proved that. Again, he’s good at his range – it was like, ‘How’s he gonna handle the range?’ It’s like, ‘That’s how.’”
Volkanovski was reluctant to dig into the specifics of how he toppled Holloway, keeping in mind that there is a chance he and “Blessed” will cross paths again in the future. Saturday’s encounter saw Volkanovski primarily wear Holloway down with leg kicks, occasionally mixing in takedown attempts to keep Holloway from finding his rhythm.
Should the two meet again, Volkanovski would love to see the matchup go down in his native Australia.
“There’s things that he does really well, but we’re aware of them,” Volkanovski said. “We’re ready. So if the rematch has to happen, again, he cuts a lot of weight, does he want to stay in this division? I don’t know. He probably wants to get that back, I don’t blame him. Again, I’ve got nothing but respect for the guy, but man, it’s my time.
“The ‘Blessed’ era ends tonight in the featherweight division. He’s a big boy, but if he wants to do it again we can do it Australia and sell some seats and tickets, pay-per-view.”
And if not, there are plenty of potential challengers for Volkanovski. Longtime featherweight contender Frankie Edgar meets onetime title challenger Chan Sung Jung in the main event of UFC Busan next Saturday, and both have the name value to merit No. 1 contender consideration. Meanwhile, fresh faces like Yair Rodriguez, Zabit Magomedsharipov, and Arnold Allen are working their way to the front of the line.
Volkanovski is keeping an open mind and if that means fighting Holloway again, so be it.
“I said I’ll be a great champion just like the other guys,” Volkanovski said. “I’ll fight whoever deserves it, and let’s be honest, Max is a great champion – he was a great champion, sorry. He was fighting all the guys. My shot was earned, not given, but he gave it to me. He could have been looking around, doing other stuff; he was happy. There was people saying that I was gonna give him problems, (and) he’s like, ‘Bring it on.’ Good on him. He’s a champion, I respect him for that, and I plan on doing the same.
“The people that are next in line, let’s do it. He does deserve a rematch, I reckon he does, but right now I’m gonna soak it up. I get an early Christmas present back to my family, I’ll go there, celebrate, have a holiday with them and later we’ll talk business.”
Though he stopped short of guaranteeing a Holloway rematch is next, he did have some advice for prognosticators should that scenario play out.
“There was a lot of doubters there,” Volkanovski said. “I ended up looking at a ‘pros picks’ – not one of them picked me. Not one. But I use that as motivation. I love it.
“Now pick me next time.”