Alexander Volkanovski is fired up and ready to take on the biggest challenge of his career at UFC 284. The UFC featherweight champion will move up a weight class to face lightweight champion Islam Makhachev in a highly anticipated UFC Lightweight Championship bout on Feb. 11 in Perth, Australia.
UFC 284 will be the second UFC pay-per-view event of the year, following the success of UFC 283 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Fight fans in the United States can watch Volkanovski vs. Makhachev and the entire UFC 284 fight card after ordering the event here on the ESPN+ website.
The main event is an incredibly rare sighting considering that Volkanovski and Makhachev are currently ranked as the #1 and #2 pound-for-pound fighters in the UFC, respectively. But despite Volkanovski’s long history of success, the betting odds are stacked against him before UFC 284.
Volkanovski is motivated by the challenge and eager to prove his doubters wrong. “Every time someone tells me I can’t do something, that pretty much fires me up and makes me wanna shut them up and prove them wrong,” Volkanovski told Fox Sports Australia. “So many people think it can’t be done. The way people are going on it’s like this guy’s invincible and all this type of stuff.”
Volkanovski is no stranger to adversity, having overcome tough challenges en route to defending his featherweight title against the likes of Max Holloway, Korean Zombie, Brian Ortega, and Jose Aldo. He has also been named the pound-for-pound number one, a testament to his dominance since joining the UFC in 2016.
“A lot of people say ‘I should protect my winning streak and I’ll do that (fight instead) just in case’ but I say f**k that… That’s an opportunity there, that’s where you make history, that’s what people are gonna talk about and that’s what I’m all about.”
Volkanovski’s move up to the lightweight division has created doubts among some fans and experts, but he remains confident in his abilities. “Strength has never been an issue for me. I’ve always been undersized with everything I ever did. It’s gonna be a hard challenge but I guarantee that I can do it,” he said.
“The fact that I’m moving up is always gonna [create doubts], especially with me being reasonably short, and then people are looking at it stylistically thinking not only is he moving up where people have the size advantage but now he’s versing the best grappler/wrestler in that division.”
The champion has been training tirelessly to prepare for the fight and is making sure every session is specific to Makhachev. “This is already making me so much better of a fighter than I originally was… Every session that I’m doing is a specific position for this fight. I don’t wanna waste a single minute on something I ain’t gonna do. Right now every minute that I spend in the gym is specific for Islam.”
As for the approach to fighting Makhachev, it’s as simple as being ready for everything that may be thrown his way. “Obviously if we don’t get taken down then beauty, but in my head, I need to prepare as if we’re going down. I need people to put me in the worst possible position I can be and I’ll fight from it. That’s why you’ll always see me composed no matter where I am,” Volkanovski said.
“I’ll be fighting for every millimeter, and I’ll do that for 25 minutes. You won’t see me break at all, I’ll just keep going,” says Volkanovski. “I need to capitalize when I’m on the feet. If he takes me down, I need to get back up and get hands on him. I need to either win the round or put him to sleep and I’m going to be putting hands on him trying to find that chin and find it hard.”
Volkanovski is known for his mental toughness and confidence, and he believes that this will be the key to his success against Makhachev. “Before the fight is different. I didn’t see any fear in his eyes. He wasn’t feeling uncomfortable,” Volk says. “It’s a different story once I’m standing in front of you (at fight time) and I start doing my movement, once I start putting hands on you, once you grab a hold of me and you’re like ‘f**k he’s a strong little bastard’, once I get straight back up and pop you in the face. That’s when he’ll start getting uncomfortable.”
A victory against Makhachev would not only result in Volkanovski heading home with another title but also help solidify his legacy as one of the greatest fighters of all time.
“I’m very proud of who I am, who I’ve become, and what I’ve achieved but it’s not enough. I think my legacy is still great but I want it to be one of the greatest and it starts off obviously with the 12th [of February, Australian time],” he said.
Volkanovski vs. Makhachev is the main event of UFC 284. The fight card will stream live only on ESPN+ PPV in the United States on Saturday, Feb. 11. Order the PPV now.