Australia’s own Alexander Volkanovski will be returning to the octagon this weekend to defend his UFC Featherweight title for the second time when he meets Brian Ortega.
Volkanovski has not fought since July last year, spelling his longest hiatus between fights since he joined the promotion in 2016.
The pair were originally meant to meet in March, however Volkanovski tested positive for COVID, leading to the fight being scrapped.
This time off, and subsequently the selection of the pair as the coaches on UFC reality show The Ultimate Fighter, only fuelled the rivalry. The two have publicly getting on each other nerves, having multiple verbal altercations throughout the show.
This weekend the two will finally be able to settle their differences with Volkanovski keen to be back.
“It’s been way too long,” Volkanovski said.
“Just to be here doing this, I’m just glad I’m in this position. [We’re in] lockdown back home, but to be able to do what I am doing, I’m blessed, and I just can’t wait to get in there.
“I can’t wait to put some hands on him.
“I’ve never been in this position, I’ve never had to spend so much time with an opponent, so this is different and then the long time off, so I am just eager to get back in and have some fun in there, enjoy it, enjoy everything about it and then on top of that I get to punch him in the face.”
The 32-year-old Wollongong native believes the preparation he has done with his team will get him the win and retain his title.
“Everyone has a punchers chance right and this is MMA so even the submission,” said Volkanovski.
“So, he’s obviously got new challenges for me. There are still big threats, but anyone that knows me knows that I am always prepared, they know I am doing what I need to do to nullify everything that he can throw at me.”
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Volkanovski did give Ortega props for his past performance however feels that his style is too much for him to handle.
“He did look good in his past performance and I am going to give him credit for it, he definitely evolved but he had Zombie (Chan Sung Jung) in front of him just letting him do this thing,” Volanovski said.
“As I say, you’re fighting my fight, I’m going to lead the dance. You’re going to follow my footwork, what am I throwing at him, I’m constantly changing it up, he’s got to try and keep up with that and not only that while I’m putting pressure on you and landing punches and landing kicks, you name it, it’s a whole different beast.
“He’s going to have game plans and directions going into this fight but early he is going to realise that he’s just got to keep up, that’s how it is.”
No love has been lost between the two, with Volkanovski still having disdain towards Ortega from their time on The Ultimate Fighter.
“He’s unprofessional, he’s got a bunch of yes man around him and he obviously constantly late,” Volkanovski said.
“That annoys me, I’m professional and I’m all about that. He wants this belt, you can’t be unprofessional, half-assing it.
“I think he just puts on a front, acts like he’s all chilled and I see through the bulls***.”
Volkanovski will enter this weekend as the favourite, however will have his work cut out against a dangerous Ortega who is the stronger grappler and has much improved striking.
The UFC 266 main card will kick off from midday Sunday on Main Event with the card also featuring Women’s Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko, who will be looking to extend her impressive title reign against Lauren Murphy, and the return of fan favourite Nick Diaz.
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