Australia’s own Alexander Volkanovski (23-1, 10-0 UFC) returns to the octagon this weekend to defend his 145-pound Featherweight title against South Korea’s Chan Sung Jung (17-6, 7-3 UFC).
Volkanovski is coming off the 2021 Fight of the Year, where he successfully defended his belt via unanimous decision against submission specialist Brian Ortega. During the third round of the fight, Volkanovski showed the heart of a champion, surviving two submission attempts that most other fighters would have tapped or gone unconscious to.
With the victory Volkanovski began to receive the respect and recognition he deserved as the champion from a fan base somewhat apprehensive about giving ‘The Great’ credit. While these plaudits were something that the 33 year old was chasing in previous fights, he has now changed his tone.
“The best thing about it is I don’t care, but yes it’s definitely changed but I’ve changed,” Volkanovski told the media.
“I am not looking for the negatives and this was only recently where I was like ‘what are you doing?’
“I was paying way too much attention to all that type of stuff and letting that put weight on my shoulders for nothing. It was holding me back, I couldn’t be myself, I couldn’t be free.
“Whereas now, yes it has changed. What’s better about it is the fact that I don’t care if it didn’t, if I wasn’t getting it whatever, who cares, move on.”
With this now being Volkanovski’s third title defence, the Australian has begun to settle into champ life.
“A lot of times you probably would talk to Alex Volkanovski, the guy that I’ve always been, but today you are talking to the champ,” Volkanovski said.
“I want to wear this crown, I earned it, I deserve it. I don’t have to feel like I am being cocky by owning that crown that I deserve to wear.”
Volkanovski’s upcoming title defence was originally booked as the trilogy fight between he and former champion Max Holloway (23-6, 19-6 UFC), until Holloway withdrew due injury. Instead, Chan Sung Jung, known commonly as ‘The Korean Zombie’, stepped in as the fourth ranked Featherweight contender.
Despite the change in opponent, Volkanovski remains just as motivated to get inside the cage and have his hand raised for a 20th consecutive time.
“I am absolutely pumped for this. It’s a new face across the octagon for me, he’s definitely a familiar face, he’s been around forever,” he said.
“It’s a guy I have always wanted to fight. I thought I was always going to fight ‘Zombie,’ he has been at the top of the game ever since the Featherweight division started.
“This is a legacy fight, I have taken out a lot of the legends and I want to keep taking out legends. He is definitely one of them, he has earnt this spot, so I am motivated 100%.”
Sung Jung earnt the nickname ‘The Korean Zombie’ due to his fighting style that combines constant forward movement with an ability to be able to eat big punches and still stay standing, firing back with even more ferocity.
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While many pundits are predicting that Volkanovski will get his hand raised, the New South Wales native still feels that Chan Sung Jung offers something different from previous opponents and should still be respected.
“You talk about guys that obviously come forward and their game is that, there is plenty of them, but he will put your lights out at the same time,” said Volkanovski.
“He will eat one to give one, which is always fun. It’s going to be a fun fight, it’s going to be a crowd pleaser for sure, but it’s going to leave a lot of openings for me. I am going to be calculated, I’m not going to be silly.
“A lot of people are like are you going to try and top the last one? I am not going out there to try and top it to make everyone happy, it’s just this fight is what I am expecting to happen anyway. Whether it tops it or not, it’s going to be a banger because just how he fights and I am going to make him pay.
“You come at me and try and find my chin [and] walk forward at me, I am going to make you pay. I am going to make you miss and going to be capitalising on every opening he gives me.”
As for what MMA fans can expect from Volkanovski in 2022 and beyond, the champion is hoping to have a busy year of fighting as he continues to cement his legacy as one of the greatest of all time.
“I want to keep taking these guys out, I’ve got a division to hold. I will do that and then we’re going to talk about other divisions and all that, but now I want to defend this baby a few times this year,” he said.
“This is going to be a big massive year for me and it starts Saturday night.”
UFC 271 goes down on Sunday 6 March and can be ordered via Kayo, here. The Main Card is set to take place at 12pm AEDT.
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