UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski started his career at welterweight, eventually cutting down and becoming a champion at featherweight.
At 5’6″, Volkanovski is still considered by some to be undersized for the featherweight division. Despite his natural size, the UFC featherweight champion started out his MMA career at welterweight.
The Aussie made a recent appearance on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. He talked about several topics, including winning the title from Max Holloway, making the transition from professional rugby to MMA and dropping multiple weight classes. See what he had to say below:
“I had four amateur fights [when playing rugby] then went pro. [My first loss] That was against at the time, Corey Nelson. He was pound-for-pound number one. Obviously, this was at welterweight, this was very early in my career and I should not have taken that fight. But we were in a tournament and I had him first so I had the favorite straight up. And again, it was in a division I probably should have never been in. But, you know, I took him on and I did alright, I held my own, but things didn’t go well.
It went a lot better for me after that because I realised that he was too strong so I thought ‘right I have to go down, or I have to start grappling as well.’ So that’s when I actually started grappling after that.” Volkanovski said.
Volkanovski knew that he had to up his game if he wanted to continue competing in MMA professionally. He revealed that he trained in jiu-jitsu for 4 months straight, eventually putting his skills to test in a jiu-jitsu competition. Volkanovski ended up taking home the gold and that was the point, where he realised he has to drop down and compete in lower weight classes:
“I remember doing that jiu-jitsu comp, I was stood on the podium and getting gold, so I was on the first podium, they’re on the second and third and they’re still taller than me,” Volkanovski said while laughing. “So that’s why now I fight at featherweight.
I’m used to footie players, big, front-rowers, and fighting at middleweight, and all these different divisions. Now I look at these featherweights, they’re puny compared to what I’m used to.”
Joe Rogan was clearly impressed by Volkanovski starting off his professional MMA career at welterweight, to which the Australian responded:
“Yeah and that was at pro fighting the top guys. I fought Anton Zafir, before that [Corey Nelson] and he was a UFC fighter as well at welterweight.”
He revealed that extreme dieting was the key to making the transition from welterweight to featherweight:
“Obviously dieting is absolutely key. Even now, when I train so hard, if you’re not dieting well, the weight won’t come off.
Starting early, I didn’t know much. I don’t know what I know now having dieticians, I was never doing that. I literally ate next to nothing. I would train a lot, I was training rugby league, fighting, training and then concrete [work]. And when I was getting close to fights, I was eating next to nothing.” Volkanovski concluded.
Rogan asked him if his extreme diet caused any health problems for him to, which Volkanovski responded:
“Yes 100%, staph infections all the time. It’s crucial, diet. The science to it all. Now it’s an absolute game-changer…I had to miss out on fights due to bad staph infections, MRSA, and all that type of [stuff].”
Alexander Volkanovski (21-1) won the UFC featherweight title from Max Holloway at UFC 245. He was able to implement a volume of low kicks and outstrike the former champion in every round, winning the fight via unanimous decision.
His next fight has not been announced yet, however there are rumours that Volkanovski will make his 1st title defence in a rematch against Max Holloway in his home country of Australia later this year.
This article first appeared on CLOSEDGUARDMEDIA.com on 12th March, 2020.