Alexander Volkanovski’s (18-1) emergence in the UFC’s featherweight division is yet another sensational story of the mixed martial arts talent coming out of Australia and New Zealand.
With Robert Whittaker sitting at the top of the middleweight division, Tai Tuivasa doing his thing in the heavyweight category, and the likes of Dan Hooker, Israel Adesanya, and many more rising through the ranks, it’s clear that the ANZAC takeover is already upon us.
Possibly one of the most understated of all is the surging 29-year-old Volkanovski, who has managed five consecutive wins in the UFC. Volkanovski scored the biggest victory of his short six-year career in July when he battered Darren Elkins at UFC Fight Night 133 in Boise, Idaho.
That win was enough to bump Volkanovski into the UFC’s official featherweight rankings, where he now sits at #11. Volkanovski’s confidence is soaring, and he’s now focused on luring the higher-ranked Chad Mendes into what would be a cutthroat 145 lbs battle.
Why Alex Volkanovski wants Chad Mendes next
Alexander Volkanovski has been heralded as a ‘good guy’ of the featherweight division ever since his arrival to the UFC in 2016. He considers himself as “just a regular guy who fights” and strongly values his family and integrity.
Volkanovski is the ‘nice guy’ who wants to take out all of the ‘bad guys.’
Here’s a clip from Volkanovski’s UFC debut in which he issued an unexpected mid-fight apology to the referee for an infringement.
Next on Volkanovski’s hitlist is #6 ranked Chad Mendes, who jumped over him in the UFC’s rankings after returning from a two-year layoff due to a USADA suspension.
Volkanovski recently joined us on The Body Lock Podcast to explain why he wants to fight Mendes next.
“Chad Mendes seems like a cool dude, but he got caught taking something, so he is not as honest as he looks. That’s why I want this fight.”
“A lot of people are going to be like ‘well he should be fighting someone higher up,’ – no he shouldn’t. He is even saying he should be fighting someone higher. Wait a second, no disrespect, but you aren’t in a position to call the shots. We’re both ranked. I’m only a couple behind him. And I’m not coming off a two-year suspension for taking illegal supplements or whatever it was. I reckon it’s fair. A lot of people want to see it, and I hope it happens.”
Not only will this fight be a fun one for the fans, but it represents a significant opportunity for the 29-year-old. With a victory, Volkanovski will shoot up the rankings and position himself within range of a title shot as early as next year. And that wouldn’t be a surprising outcome considering Volkanovski’s talent and willingness to fight twice more in 2018.
“There’s a PPV in October, and I’d love to get on that card. That’s more than enough time for me. Then I’ll back it up for December in Adelaide.”
Volkanovski has his sights set on the top-ranked guys in the division and is confident that a matchup with him only spells trouble for his opposition.
“I honestly believe that pound-for-pound, I’m the strongest fighter in the UFC.”
“I honestly believe that,” Volkanovski explained on The Body Lock Podcast.
“I look like I should be 135 lbs, maybe. But I feel as strong as these 170’s, I train with a lot of them. Honestly, can hold my own even with middleweights and light heavyweights even in the UFC. I’m one hard man to control and I can control almost anyone.”
“I honestly believe it. It’s not cockiness. I’m just really confident in my abilities and where I’m going to be in a few months even.”
Volkanovski’s ability to compete in the featherweight division is an incredible feat considering that he previously weighed 214 lbs when he was playing rugby. He started his career as a middleweight and eventually transitioned through lightweight and then down to featherweight.
Volkanovski seems to carry his tremendous middleweight-like power into the cage with him against featherweights. And as of right now, no one has been able to match the intensity of the Australian.
Everyone will ‘jump on board’ soon
Although Alexander Volkanovski has been manhandling opponents all through his 19-fight career, his dominant performances have been underappreciated for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the UFC’s featherweight division is currently stacked with incredible talent. With the likes of Brian Ortega’s meteoric rise, Renato Moicano storming through the ranks, and prospects such as Zabit Magomedsharipov ready to strike, Volkanovski might be considered ‘just another’ talent in the division.
Mostly, however, this is because Volkanovski had previously competed at UFC events in Australia and New Zealand and had never ventured across to the United States.
But now, after a decisive victory against Darren Elkins in Boise, Idaho, the American fanbase were able to witness Volkanovski’s strength and power firsthand.
“I felt so much stronger than him [Elkins],” Volkanovski shared.
“Even against the cage when he had me wrapped up, I felt like I could comfortably pull him away and turn him around like I did most of the time. The only time I sort of got taken down was when I got taken down because I went for the guillotine.”
“Even Jeremy Kennedy, they [Kennedy and Elkins] take guys down at will. They grabbed hold of me and I shucked them off like it’s nothing. I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but it just shows you my base and my strength.”
“I think I’ll do that with Chad Mendes as well. And he’s strong, he’s got that lower center of gravity. I still think I’ll get takedowns. I might not be able to muscle my way through him, I might need to be more technical with the takedowns. But I’m one of the best when it comes to setting up takedowns as well. Combos in the takedowns and things like that, when I want to get someone down, I usually do.”
Despite not having the wrestling credentials that Mendes or other fighters in the division possess, Volkanovski is confident that his MMA-focused approach to grappling will be enough to overpower Mendes and others near the top of the featherweight division.
“He’s been wrestling for his life; he might have me in straight wrestling. But MMA isn’t straight wrestling. I’ll punch him in the face and take him down. I’ll give him so many other things to worry about. I honestly believe I’m on another level when it comes to MMA style wrestling, and I’m starting to show that.”
“A name like Chad Mendes, if I do that to him, that’s when everyone jumps on board and goes ‘oh crap’ he is doing this to the top guys as well. I think that’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to open a lot of eyes. People will go ‘shit’ we’ve seen this with all these other opponents, and now we’re seeing it with these top guys as well.”
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Jake is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief, based in Tasmania, Australia.