RIO DE JANEIRO – He didn’t get the finish that he had in mind, but all in all Alexander Volkanovski can’t complain too much about the “unreal” experience he had in Brazil on Saturday night.
Volkanovski (20-1 MMA, 7-0 UFC) met Jose Aldo (28-5 MMA, 10-4 UFC) in the pay-per-view main card of UFC 237, which took place at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro. Facing a former champion in enemy territory isn’t exactly an easy task, but Volkanovski was up to it, putting on a strategic display that saw him walking away with a clean 30-27 sweep in all of the judges’ scorecards.
It was the first time Aldo was edged out in a decision. And Volkanovski did it in Aldo’s kingdom, of all places.
Speaking to reporters at a news conference shortly after the fight, the 30-year-old fighter still hadn’t been able to fully process the magnitude of what he’d just accomplished.
"It is huge, it really is like you said, I don’t think it really has sunk in. I’m just so good at sort of zoning all these things out. Because, again, like I’ve been saying, he’s just got to be another body once I’m in the cage. I’m just going to have to do my thing. Which is exactly what is was. I guess I’m so good at that it’s really not – it’s really hard to sort of soak up the fact that I beat Aldo."
“Obviously I know it happened, but I’ve got to watch the tape back and have a look at it, but this is just going to open a lot of doors for me. Again, we want that title. But not just that. It’s going to open a lot of doors for my family. I’m a family man and now I can bring so home for my family. And for Mother’s Day, too, so it’s going to be good.”
Although Volkanovski was happy with how he was able to stick to his strategy, he wasn’t planning on rolling the dice on the judges scorecards – a move that, in the back of his mind, he knew could have proven particularly risky in hostile territory.
But for Volkanovski, the fact that he didn’t get a finish had less to do with what he did than with what Aldo did.
Or, better yet, with what Aldo didn’t do.
“I fought the exact fight that I wanted to fight, I thought he was going to do more… A lot of people all week were like, ‘Watch the leg kicks.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, it’s going to be easy to throw leg kicks if I’m standing still.’ But I’m not worried about what I’m doing, then it’s going to be hard to pull the trigger. And I thought he would get a little bit more, maybe, annoyed." Volkanovski said.
“I thought it would maybe just make him pull the trigger a little bit more. I thought he might have got a little but frustrated and just would have been more wild. I could have caught him then, but he didn’t. He did stayed composed. He still started to tire. And then, before you knew it, it was close to the end and I was like, ‘I’ve got this.’”
Ultimately, Volkanovski was happy with the fight he was able to put on against an opponent like the one that he had.
“He’s a legend, he’s a legend for a reason. I’m not going to just take stupid risks. He’s explosive, I said he was going to be dangerous. I fight smart. I think I’m very composed in there and you can see that. And that’s why I’m a real threat."
“But you give me someone like Max Holloway, who’s going to just come forward at me like he does, ready for a war. It’s going to be a cracker. Five rounds of that? I’m sure everyone’s keen for that.”
One person who’s certainly keen for that fight is Volkanovski, himself. Coming into the Aldo fight off a win over former title challenger Chad Mendes, and still undefeated in the UFC, the 30-year-old Australian had made it clear that he believed a win on Saturday should make his case for a title shot.
He reiterated that afterward, while still up in the octagon.
Volkanovski certainly has a case, but he’s not the only one who feels that way. Frankie Edgar, for instance, has been making his case for a title shot and, though he doesn’t have Volkanovski’s current streak going for him, he does have all his baggage as a former lightweight champion and an octagon veteran.
We’re also still not sure of champ Holloway’s next steps, following a loss to Dustin Poirier in a bid for the UFC’s interim 155-pound title.
Later asked whether he would be willing to take another fight if a title shot involved too much waiting around, Volkanovski didn’t entirely shoot it down. Still, he made sure to reiterate his title case.
“Just depends how long will I have to wait? If he’s injured for that long – interim titles are getting thrown around a bit, I’ll fight for that interim title. Make that championship money. But whatever. We’re going to have to sit and talk, but I want that title. I definitely, as you said, my claim is rock solid." Volkanovski said.
“I’m undefeated. I just beat the No. contender. So I’m the guy. I really am. I’ve come to Brazil and I took the King of Rio. I said, once I do that, I’ll be the guy that everyone is saying deserves that title, so I just want that shot.”