Alexander Volkanovski found himself in an unexpected situation leading up to his second encounter with Islam Makhachev. The UFC featherweight champion hadn’t anticipated a rematch with the promotion’s lightweight champion at UFC 297.
However, circumstances changed when Charles Oliveira withdrew due to injury, prompting Volkanovski to step in on just 11 days’ notice to salvage the main event.
Unfortunately for Volkanovski, the fight didn’t go as planned. He suffered a first-round knockout from a dramatic head kick, sparking speculation about the impact of the short notice on his performance.
Reflecting on his preparations, Volkanovski admitted during an appearance on Israel Adesanya’s YouTube channel that he had strayed significantly from his usual training routine.
“It was like a wake-up call for me,” Volkanovski confessed. “I wasn’t as disciplined as I usually am. I’m known for my professionalism and dedication year-round, but I wasn’t that way leading into this fight. I was disappointed with myself for how I had been in the months before the fight.”
He elaborated, revealing that he had been drinking daily for several weeks, a departure from his usual habits. Despite clarifying that his drinking occurred primarily at home and not during wild parties, Volkanovski acknowledged that it was a departure from the routine that had made him a dominant force in the UFC.
One of his main concerns was his weight, as he had ballooned up to nearly 185 pounds, indicating that he wasn’t in peak physical condition. Wanting to regain his form and avenge his previous loss to Makhachev, Volkanovski seized the opportunity to fight on short notice.
“I’ve never been that heavy before,” Volkanovski admitted. “Even when I was bulking up for the first fight against Islam, I never reached that weight. But when I got the call, I realized I needed to snap out of it and get back on track. This was a challenge I needed.”
Despite the adversity surrounding the fight, Volkanovski has no regrets about accepting the bout on short notice. He remains committed to being open about mental health issues, a topic he has addressed in the past.
Looking ahead, Volkanovski is set to defend his featherweight title against Ilia Topuria at UFC 298 on Feb. 17, just four months after his loss to Makhachev. While the defeat was difficult to accept, Volkanovski remains undeterred in his willingness to take risks in pursuit of his goals.
“Losing is never easy,” he admitted. “But I won’t let fear of losing stop me from challenging myself. Even though the timing wasn’t ideal for this fight, I’ll always be willing to take risks and push myself.”
Volkanovski concluded by expressing his desire to continue accepting short-notice fights in the future, despite the criticism he has faced. He acknowledges that he was caught off guard in the Makhachev rematch but remains determined to bounce back stronger.