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Alexander Volkov of Russia punches Marcin Tybura of Poland in a heavyweight fight during the UFC 267 event at Etihad Arena on October 30, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Alexander Volkov Always Wants To Show Evolution

In His Second London Main Event, Alexander Volkov Hopes To Bring His Best Against Tom Aspinall

The path to competing inside the Octagon this weekend has been challenging for Alexander Volkov, who faces off with Tom Aspinall in the main event of the UFC return to London on Saturday, but one thing that wasn’t part of those difficulties was dealing with having a newborn in the house.

“Actually, it was fun because it’s my second child and not long ago that I went through all this,” said Volkov, whose wife gave birth to their second child just prior to his victory over Marcin Tybura at the end of October. “Thanks to my wife, she made it easy for me, and I’m very, very happy about that. It didn’t affect my training schedule.”

Watch UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Aspinall On ESPN+

While the arrival of his infant son wasn’t a challenge, the veteran heavyweight was forced to navigate a second bout with COVID-19 earlier this year and then watch developments in Ukraine, casting doubt on whether or not he would be able to compete this weekend.

In response to everything going on around him, Volkov shut down his social media accounts and essentially sequestered himself, focusing exclusively on his preparations, Aspinall, and the task at hand this weekend.

Main Event Preview | UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Aspinall
Main Event Preview | UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Aspinall

Saturday’s contest marks the second time that the Russian contender has competed in the British capital, having faced and defeated former champion Fabricio Werdum in a main event pairing at the O2 Arena almost exactly four years ago.

While it was his second headlining assignment in the UFC, that fight was the effort that signified to everyone that the towering fighter was a genuine threat in the heavyweight division, and although his performance was important for his career, it’s the fans that Volkov remembers most fondly about that night.

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“My main memories about the last fight were that it was a great crowd — how they perceived me, and how happy they were about my performance,” he said, reflecting on his previous appearance in London and acknowledging that being back brings positive memories. “Of course, there are good vibes, but still, we are professionals and I’m a very different fighter — I’m stronger, much better than I was — and I’m happy to show my new form to British fans.”

Chances are the crowd won’t be as welcoming and supportive this weekend, as he steps in opposite Aspinall, the surging British heavyweight looking to catapult himself into the upper echelon of the division with a victory this weekend.

Alexander Volkov golpeia Alistair Overeem em UFC Fight Night no UFC Apex em fevereiro de 2021 (Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Though he hails from the northwest part of the country, the fans down in London will undoubtedly be united behind the Manchester man, as the only time territorial lines are truly drawn in a sporting competition are on the pitch, where rivalries between and within cities are strong.

As such, Volkov knows he’s not likely to garner the same kind of warm reception and appreciative response from the crowd as he did four years ago, and he’s accepting of that, dipping into a little professional wrestling parlance to explain the dichotomy of this weekend’s heavyweight duel. 

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“I’m ready for that because after all, our sport is also a show, and in good shows, there are always heels and faces,” he said, using terms more synonymous with the action in the squared circle than the UFC cage. “Sometimes I’m playing face, but Saturday, I’ll be a heel.

“It’s all to entertain the crowd, and if they’re happy, I’m happy.”

With Aspinall being just four fights into his UFC journey, many have framed this fight as a litmus test for the ascendant British talent, positioning Volkov as “the old warhorse” the younger fighter has to contend with in order to prove he’s ready to compete with the best in the division.

While there is some validity to the framing from a rankings and experience perspective, Volkov does take umbrage with one part of the depiction.

Alexander Volkov of Russia kicks Marcin Tybura of Poland in a heavyweight fight during the UFC 267 event at Etihad Arena on October 30, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Alexander Volkov of Russia kicks Marcin Tybura of Poland in a heavyweight fight during the UFC 267 event at Etihad Arena on October 30, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

“I’m not that old,” said the 33-year-old, who is five years Aspinall’s senior. “I have an advantage in experience, but calling him a younger fighter — our age difference is not that bad. We’re both young, I just have more experience, and I think that’s my advantage — my experience and my way of fighting.

“We all started on different levels and I have only respect for Tom,” said Volkov. “There is no feeling that I’m better than him and I don’t look down on him at all; he’s a great guy.

“I watched his fights, and I think he has a great future in the UFC, and I’m happy to welcome him to the top.”

Not exactly what you’d expect to hear from the visiting heel a couple days ahead of his big main event showdown, but this is mixed martial arts, not professional wrestling, and Volkov is simply a sportsman ready to test himself against another elite competitor this weekend.

That’s been his approach throughout his career, and after alternating wins and losses through his three appearances in 2021, he’s ready to build off his last effort and start 2022 on a positive note this weekend.

“I wasn’t upset much because, to me, defeats are the way to evolve myself and I’m trying to look at the bright side, not focus on the bad things,” he said in regards to his loss to Ciryl Gane in June. “I was quite happy that I fought with Marcin (Tybura) and I was very happy with my performance.

“And this time out I will show my best.”

Don’t miss a single round of UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Aspinall, live from the O2 Arena in London, on Saturday, March 19 on ESPN+ (US) and UFC Fight Pass (outside the US). Prelims begin at 1pm ET/10am PT. Main card begins at 4pm ET/1pm PT.

UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Aspinall took place on Saturday, March 19, 2022, live from a sold out O2 Arena in London. See Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses at #UFCLondon.