UFC 294: Alexander Volkanovski reveals mental health battle after Islam Makhachev defeat

Alexander Volkanovski has spoken of his mental health battle prior to accepting the UFC lightweight title fight with Islam Makhachev.

The Australian suffered a brutal first-round knockout by the Dagestani at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday (Sunday morning AEDT).

During his post-fight press conference, an emotional Volkanovski revealed he had been struggling mentally before the Makhachev fight was planned.

MORE: UFC 294 results: Islam Makhachev stops Alexander Volkanovski with brutal head kick in rematch to retain lightweight championship

The 35-year-old urged the UFC to ‘keep him busy’ as he committed to January 20’s defence of his featherweight title against Ilia Topuria in UFC 297 in Toronto.

“It is hard – it really is hard for athletes,” Volkanovski said.

“I never thought I’d struggle with it but [I did] for some reason when I wasn’t fighting or in camp – it was just doing my head in.

“So when this opportunity came up, I’ll be honest I wasn’t training as much as I should’ve but I thought I had to do it. Had to take it.

“I thought it would be … I was telling myself it was meant to be.

“I was doing my head in not fighting. Don’t know why. I’ve got a beautiful family.

“I think you just need to keep busy. So I ask the UFC to keep me busy.

“I need to be in camp or I’m gunna do my head in. I’ll leave it at that.”

Volkanovski was asked by a journalist to elaborate more on his feelings before taking the Makhachev bout on.

The Australian spoke candidly about how his struggle led him to accept the rematch with the Dagestani.

“It’s weird. I’ve never [understood mental health issues],” he said.

“Maybe the more and more I learn, the more I understand – I don’t know.

“[Taking on the fight] was a decision I chose. I talked about us having a smile on our faces, me and my wife. My wife could see it does get hard.

“I don’t know why. I think there was so much going on with the surgery, the baby – I just needed to get in camp.

“Then this fight came up and I thought it was meant to be, so let’s do it. That’s what I thought it was.

“Maybe it was a silly decision under the circumstances. They’re decisions you don’t want to make against someone like Islam.

“But I’m taking nothing away from him.”

UFC 294 fight card

Main card

  • Islam Makhachev def. Alexander Volkanovski via 1st round knockout (head kick & punches) (3:06) to retain the UFC lightweight title
  • Khamzat Chimaev def. Kamaru Usman via majority decision (29-27, 29-27 & 28-28)
  • Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker ends in No Contest (3:13)
  • Ikram Aliskerov def. Warlley Alves via 1st round TKO (flying knee, punches) (2:07)
  • Said Nurmagomedov def. Muin Gafurov via 1st round submission (guillotine choke) (1:13)

Prelims

  • Muhammad Mokaev def. Tim Elliott via 3rd round submission (arm triangle) (3:03)
  • Trevor Peek def. Mohammad Yahya via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27 & 30-27)
  • Javid Basharat vs. Victor Henry ends in No Contest 
  • Sedriques Dumas def. Abu Azaitar via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28)
  • Mike Breeden def. Anshul Jubli via 3rd round KO (punch) (3:00)
  • Muhammad Naimov def. Nathaniel Wood via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28)
  • Victoria Dudakova def. Jinh Yu Frey via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28)
  • Sharabutdin Magomedov def. Bruno Silva via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27)

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