Alexander Volkanvski’s loss at UFC 284 against UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev in 2023 stuck with him, as the Aussie believed he did all he could to win and become a two-division titleholder. However, the UFC featherweight champion can now redeem himself when he faces Makhachev again for the lightweight belt at UFC 294 on October 21.
Replacing an injured Charles Oliveira, Volkanvski only has two weeks to prepare. In what could be his last attempt to fight for lightweight gold, “The Great” looks to prove why his octagon moniker holds value. His resume speaks for itself, but Volkanvski continues to pursue challenges. He now attempts to go above and beyond what his peers would do, even stating that Makhachev wouldn’t attempt the same feat.
“Because I’ve been climbing this mountain, and I’ve been doing that forever, it makes me be able to deal with this situation I’m in right now,” Volkanovski told the UFC. “This isn’t just any regular person stepping in on short notice. This is a seasoned guy that has been professional for the last 12 years, who’s put the work in consistently, and that’s why you’re hearing me talk about how fresh all this is to me with my game planning and whatnot.
“I don’t have big breaks in the gym; I’m constantly thinking about fighting. This is my life, this is what it’s all about to me, so I’m constantly playing that chess in my head when it comes to fighting.”
WATCH: UFC 294: Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski 2, exclusively on ESPN+
Volkanvski was undefeated for nine years before Makhachev beat him in a close contest in his home of Australia. He refused to let the ground game of Makhachev get the best of him, and, on occasion, Volkanvski chatted with the Russian on the floor. Having recently turned 35, it is unknown how much Volkanovski has left in the tank. That makes this challenge all the more worthwhile.
Per Bet MGM, Makhachev is the -250 favorite, while Volkanovski is the +200 underdog. That is not as wide as when Volkanovski had a complete fight camp for UFC 284. On that occasion, Makhachev was the -340 favorite, and Volkanovski was the +245 underdog. The challenger embraces the unpredictability factor in this fight.
As we have seen before, anything can happen in MMA.
The preparation for this fight is something. Volkanovski’s wild 2023 will include:
- Moving in weight to fight Makhachev
- Returning to featherweight to beat Yair Rodriguez
- Announced as the cover fighter of the latest UFC video game
- Fighting Makhachev on 10 days’ notice
- Traveling from Australia to the Middle East at the last minute
- Competing just three months after hand surgery
- He weighed 180 pounds when he got the call, meaning he must lose 25 pounds to make the 155-pound limit.
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The last point is fascinating since Volkanovski recently cut weight from 155 to 145. To safely do so this time, he enlisted the services of Australian dietitian and weight-cutting expert Jordan Sullivan. Weight cuts can be brutal, as we have seen when fighters collapse during weigh-in shows. Sullivan has a method to his madness, which includes innovative meal plans like three meals and three snacks a day for Volkanovski until weigh-ins.
“Fight week is about losing water weight,” Sullivan stated via Code Sports. “They’ll lose all this body fat during fight camp, but Volk will lose anywhere between six to eight kilos in the week leading into the fight… The cumulative effect of all these strategies over four or five days is that fighters can lose about 5% of their body weight. For Volk, that’s about three to three and a half kilos, just from dietary strategies.
“What we do for Volk is different to what we do for Israel (Adesanya) and different to what we do for Dan Hooker or Kai Kara-France. It’s all based on body type, body composition, training schedules, habitual diet, what foods they like and don’t like, how much they sweat, and how salty their sweat is. There’s many, many factors that come into it, and it’s about doing it in the safest way possible and in a way that doesn’t diminish performance on fight night. That’s the art of it.”
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Win or lose, Volkanovski’s legacy is of interest to many. Over the years, he has cleaned up the featherweight division. However, rising stars have emerged within it. Volkanovski was planning to defend his title against Ilia Topuria in January and still plans on doing so. This only serves to justify that he is one of the best featherweights, but we will eventually need to talk about his potential as an all-time great. If he beats Makhachev (potentially going 10 rounds total against him) and then fights and beats Topuria, he may have to be considered a top five in the “G.O.A.T.” discussion.
Volkanovski is only thinking of the present. His desire to challenge himself has brought him to this moment and he controls his own destiny. Like his nickname related to a historical conquerer, “The Great” is ready to build on his already-cemented legacy. Can he pull it of?
“That’s exactly what it’s all about, doing things so you will be remembered,” Volkanovski told Yahoo Sports. “A wise man once said, ‘Dare to be great.’…These are the kinds of moments people talk about forever. And I want to do the kind of things in this sport so that five years, ten years, many, many years from now, people will remember them. Basically, I want to be doing the things that make people want to put me on their walls.”