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Alexander Volkanovski of Australia looks on during the UFC 276 ceremonial weigh-in at T-Mobile Arena on July 01, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Alexander Volkanovski's Chance To Separate Himself From The Rest

UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski Is Determined To Achieve Greatness By Becoming The Lightweight Champion At UFC 284: Makhachev vs Volkanovski

If you ever wanted to understand what makes Alexander Volkanovski great, look no further than the way he reflected on his standout 2022 campaign in the days leading up to his epic showdown with Islam Makhachev for the lightweight title this weekend in the main event of UFC 284.

After successfully defending his title — and surviving a couple scary chokes — against Brian Ortega in his lobe appearance of 2021, the 34-year-old featherweight champion turned in consecutive dominant efforts last year to cement his standing as the top pound-for-pound talent in the sport. In April, he ran through Chan Sung Jung, battering “The Korean Zombie” to where the fight was halted just 45 seconds into the fourth round. Less than three months later, he boxed up long-time rival Max Holloway in their third meeting, posting a third straight victory over the former champion to close that chapter of his career and leave no questions about his superiority in the 145-pound weight class.

“2022 was a big year,” Volkanovski told's Zac Pacleb on Wednesday afternoon, just a few days ahead of his clash with Makhachev, where he looks to become the fifth two-weight world champion in UFC history. “It set me up for this opportunity and set me up for an even bigger 2023.

How To Watch UFC 284: Makhachev vs Volkanovski In Your Country

“(2022) was massive, but 2023 is gonna be the year everyone will always remember and talk about.”

Volkanovski has never been one to rest on his laurels, and even when asked about the personal significance of ending things with Holloway and reenforcing is place atop the featherweight division, his focus is on the task in front of him and chasing down the next challenge.

That constant forward focus isn’t surprising to anyone that has watched Volkanovski’s growth and development over the course of his six-plus year career in the UFC, where he’s amassed a perfect 12-0 record to extend his overall winning streak to 22 straight fights. Arriving as a strong athlete with good ground-and-pound and tremendous cardio, Volkanovski has morphed into one of the most complete fighters in the sport today — an all-around standout who continues to get demonstratively better with each appearance.

Alexander Volkanovski holds an open training session for fans and media during the UFC 284 Open Workouts at Elizabeth Quay - The Landing on February 9, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Alexander Volkanovski holds an open training session for fans and media during the UFC 284 Open Workouts at Elizabeth Quay - The Landing on February 9, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

"You gotta have that drive and you gotta put that work in,” said Volkanovski, who has always put his success down to his focus, drive, and the way he works at his craft. “I’m the type of guy to do that.

“You hear people being like, ‘You gotta be wrestling your whole life to be able to do this,’ and I go, ‘You haven’t seen how quickly I can evolve as a fighter? You haven’t seen how quickly I learn?’ You’re mad if you haven’t seen that yet.

UFC 284 Fight By Fight Preview

“Give me time working on things and I’m gonna get it down pat and I’m gonna do it well,” he added. “That’s the type of guy I am and that’s why you see me improving, because I’m working on things, and I’m understanding more about the game; I’ve got a good team around me, good coaches, and that helps.”

Having cemented his place atop the featherweight division by the first weekend in July last year, Volkanovski set his sights on the next challenge, targeting a date with the winner of the UFC 280 lightweight championship matchup between Makhachev and Charles Oliveira.

He announced his intentions to face the winner and was selected to serve as the backup fighter should one of the title fight participants be unable to compete.

Alexander Volkanovski Personifies Greatness | UFC 284
Alexander Volkanovski Personifies Greatness | UFC 284

When Makhachev won the title, submitting Oliveira in the second round, Volkanovski was sitting in the front row, and quickly entered the Octagon to congratulate Makhachev and accept his challenge when the new king of the lightweight division declared he wanted to face the featherweight champ in Australia next.

Unbeaten in his last 11 fights and having earned finishes in each of his last five victories, Makhachev has been every bit as good as his coaches and teammates long said he was while he waited for his time to chase down the lightweight title to come around. He’s a nightmare matchup for anyone and everyone, but that’s precisely why Volkanovski wanted this challenge, and he’s felt himself level up again as he’s prepared for his opportunity to share the cage with Makhachev this weekend in Perth.

“I keep mentioning challenging yourself and all that type of stuff, but you need to do that — that’s how you get better,” said Volkanovski. “I’m always challenging myself, in the gym, with fights. If you want to be successful in anything, you need to do that — you need to go through adversities, you need to put yourself in challenging times, you need to put that type of work in.

UFC 284 COUNTDOWN: Makhachev vs Volkanovski

“That’s what it’s all about for me, and I’m the fighter I am now because of this challenge, compared to the fighter I was before. It’s incredible how much stronger I got, takedown defense, all that type of stuff. It’s like it happened overnight, purely because of the challenge. It’s like I didn’t even have to work for it — the mindset thing was a switch, like ‘All right, we need to get stronger, we need to do this,’ and it’s like I did it overnight.

“I’ve always done it. I’ve always put myself in these type of positions because that’s the type of guy that I am, but now I understand. Now I understand why it’s good, why I want to do it, why I should do it, and why more people in the world should do it.

“You want to be great? You want to be better? You want to separate yourself from the rest? This is what you’ve gotta do.”

Alexander Volkanovski poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session on February 9, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

Alexander Volkanovski poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session on February 9, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

This weekend, Volkanovski is daring to be great.

Saturday’s contest is the type of legacy-defining fight that can elevate the former rugby man from being one of the best fighters in the sport today to being one of the greatest fighters of all-time.

View Volkanovski's Athlete Profile Here

It’s the pound-for-pound No. 1 versus the pound-for-pound No. 2, champion versus champion, a 22-fight winning streak versus an 11-fight winning streak, and should Volkanovski venture up a division and topple Makhachev, there isn’t much he could do in order to top this achievement.

“Can it get bigger than that? How can it get bigger? Let’s put it out: No. 1 pound-for-pound versus No. 2, champ versus champ, for me, moving up a division — what can be bigger than that? What else could be on the line? Maybe going for a third belt is the only way it could only get bigger, and that hasn’t been done before.”

He paused, playfully pondering the idea as he rubbed the stubble on his chin.

“Sounds good… maybe…” he said, laughing.

While he’s able to joke about potential bigger challenges after this weekend’s contest, Volkanovski is completely dialed in and focused on the task at hand.

WATCH: Best Of The Australians At UFC 284

He understands the daunting task ahead of him, respects what Makhachev has done, what he brings to the table, and how sharp he will need to be in order to emerge victorious and join Conor McGregor as just the second man to hold both the UFC featherweight and UFC lightweight titles simultaneously.

And he believes he’ll do it, largely because of that understanding and the focus it bought out of him as he prepared for Saturday night’s main event, but also because he gets the sense that Makhachev isn’t viewing this weekend’s battle the same way.

UFC featherweight champion, Alex Volkanovski poses for a photo in front of a mural during a UFC284 Media Opportunity on January 22, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Zuffa LLC)

UFC featherweight champion, Alex Volkanovski poses for a photo in front of a mural during a UFC284 Media Opportunity on January 22, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Zuffa LLC)

“I think it’s obvious when you look at the type of fighter that I am, what has made me a champion and who I am — it’s all the stuff you need,” he said when asked point blank why he’s the man to halt Makhachev’s run and end his title reign before it really gets started. “It’s the durability, resilience, work ethic, mindset; you name it. There is so much there, there are so many layers to me — the Fight IQ and all that type of stuff.

“To think that I can’t get the job done is crazy. Obviously, it’s a challenge, he’s a tough fighter, and everyone is going to mention ‘Look what he did to this guy!’ Even Islam — ‘I did this’ and so on — but do you really think I’m gonna crumble like your last opponents? Are you really putting that in your head?

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"If you’re really putting that in your head, you’re in for a rude shock.”

Despite being the hometown favorite, Volkanovski said he feels no pressure heading into this weekend’s colossal battle at RAC Arena.

He’s relaxed and cheerful, content in knowing that he’s done everything necessary to give himself the best opportunity to beat Makhachev, and believing all the pressure resides on his opponent’s shoulders.

Alexander Volkanovski: Then & Now | UFC 30th Anniversary
Alexander Volkanovski: Then & Now | UFC 30th Anniversary

“I don’t feel like there is any pressure on me. I think the pressure is on Islam, especially because of the way he’s talking, saying, ‘(You’re too) short, you shouldn’t move up;’ being smirky, having that cheekiness that I feel like he has as if I’ve got no chance. That’s a lot of pressure on him.

“Me? I’m gonna go out there, I’ve got a job to do, and I’m always good at that,” he continued. “I’m good at putting that pressure away, and once it’s all said and done, I can let it go. I’m good at putting a shield in front of me and not letting that get to me; worrying about the task ahead.”

UFC 284: Makhachev vs Volkanovski

Volkanovski has no illusions about the challenge in front of him at UFC 284 — he knew it was a daunting task when he sought it out, and prepared accordingly, leaving him ready to step into the Octagon full of confidence on Saturday.

But he’s not sure Makhachev could say the same thing, and he’s ready to surprise the lightweight champion this weekend.

“I know what to expect because I give him that respect, where I feel he’s not doing the same,” said Volkanovski. “He feels he’s going to grab ahold of me and it’s game over. If you’re really training for that, preparing for that, I can’t wait to see your face when it doesn’t work out that way.”

UFC 284: Makhachev vs Volkanovski took place live from RAC Arena in Perth, Western Australia on February 11, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive all the action on UFC Fight Pass