Alex Volkanovski out to prove point by finishing Max Holloway

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ABU DHABI – Alexander Volkanovski has a singular mission in his first defense of the UFC featherweight title: finish Max Holloway.

“I’ve already beat him. I know I can do that,” Volkanovski told MMA Junkie on Monday. “Now I want to finish him. A lot of people think he can’t be finished. I truly do believe I can.”

Volkanovski (21-1 MMA, 8-0 UFC) and Holloway (21-5 MMA, 17-5 UFC) first faced off last December, and it was the Australian challenger who took home a unanimous decision to dethrone “Blessed.” Now they’ll run it back at UFC 251, which takes place Saturday at Yas Island. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+.

Despite entering as the champion this time around, Volkanovski said he doesn’t really feel any different – other than, of course, the changes that have been made in terms of operations in Abu Dhabi as a response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“I swear I feel the same every time, no matter how big the fight is,” Volkanovski said. “I’ve got a job to do, and that’s it. That’s how I look at it.

“These are obviously crazy times. Everything does feel a little bit different – ‘Fight Island,’ all the protocols that we’ve got to go through. At the same time, I just play whatever is in front of me. I’m still getting my sessions in, still doing what needs to be done.”

It’s that consistency in approach that Volkanovski, 31, believes is key to his successful run to the title – a stretch that includes an incredible 18-fight winning streak and a perfect 8-0 mark in the UFC.

“You always know you’re one of the best fighters in the world, you always tell yourself that, but to go out there and prove it is another thing. So that’s obviously an unreal feeling,” Volkanovski said. “You’ve got a belt that you can now say you are the best featherweight in the world. Obviously it does change a little bit. But what was really good for me to know is that the belt didn’t change me at all, one bit. I’m exactly who I was before I got that belt. I’m exactly who I was 10 years ago.

“I go back home. I’m still daddy. I’ve still got three girls bossing me around, telling me what to do, you know what I mean? It’s good to know, yeah, you are the best fighter in the world, but at the end of the day, you are you. Nothing changes. It hasn’t gone to your head, and I’m proud of that. Some people will pretend to be something they’re not, but that’s me. I’m proud of who I am, and I don’t need a belt to change me.”

Now Volkanovski will look to solidify his slot as champion by earning a second win over Holloway, who many believe is the greatest of all time in the featherweight division. The conditions are a little bit challenging these days, with the coronavirus forcing extreme measures in preparation for the event, as well as fight week itself. But Volkanovski said he didn’t hesitate to accept a bout in the spot the UFC is calling, “Fight Island.”

“I wanted to fight here, to be honest,” Volkanovski said. “I only had six weeks’ notice for this fight. It was still a fight that I wanted. I knew that this was a big opportunity – first fight on ‘Fight Island.’ No other sports. I wanted to get a fight in while there’s no other sports really happening, and again, three title fights on this card.

“This card is huge, massive, and I wanted to be a part of it. I made sure that happened. Again, I don’t need much time to get ready. If we get a few weeks, I’m fight-fit, so I’m in good nick. I’m ready to roll. I’ve got something to prove. I wanted to get out here and compete, show everyone that I’m the best featherweight in the world. I want to put Max away.”

Volkanovski is fully aware that Holloway’s best moments in the original meeting came late. Of course, Volkanovski is quick to point out he was nursing a broken hand at the time. But after 25 minutes in the cage with Holloway, Volkanovski is confident it’s just a good matchup for him.

“I feel like this is going to be extra rounds,” Volkanovski said. “I felt him out. Now I can do a little bit more. I don’t have a broken hand. I don’t have to finish the last round with a broken hand. I get to go there healthy and with a good game plan, knowing what I can do and what will happen, so I’m looking forward to this.

“I might sound real confident, but that’s because I am. I am very confident, and I believe in my abilities, and I’m going to show the world I”m the best featherweight in the world, and that’s it.”

And Volkanovski believes there’s one very clear way to do exactly that. Sure, another win would be great. But he wants a finish to make a real claim of his rightful spot.

“I’m going for the finish, and I think it is going to be a finish,” Volkanovski said. “I have a lot of respect for him as a fighter, who he is. He’s a durable fighter, as well, got a great chin, so me putting him away is really sending a statement, and that really, really cements me into where I want to be, so that’s what I plan on doing.”



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