The last time Alexander Volkov stepped into the Octagon, “Drago” delivered one of his most impressive performances to date with a first-round knockout victory over highly acclaimed kickboxer Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
In Volkov’s mind, he stands atop the division amongst striking talent alongside Ciryl Gane, a two-time title challenger who defeated Volkov back in June, 2021, in a fight that “Drago” is keen on getting back.
“If we’re talking strictly striking, I would really love to go back and do the fight with Ciryl Gane again because in that fight, I think there was a very close margin in which I lost,” Volkov said. “I think we can run it back.”
Last weekend at UFC 285: Jones vs Gane, the French star fell to the UFC’s new pound-for-pound king -and now heavyweight champion - Jon Jones. With Jones at the helm, and Gane in need of a win or two to get back into title contention, a rematch down the line against Volkov isn’t all that unlikely. And if he can exact his revenge on Gane, then maybe a title fight is in his future. It’s all hypothetical at this point, as Volkov prepares for his fight against Alexandr Romanov this weekend at UFC Fight Night: Yan vs Dvalishvili, but the idea of a potential fight with Jones down the line is constantly motivating Volkov to elevate his performance every time he steps into the gym and the Octagon.
“I really hope he stays active because that will give the chance to a lot of different fighters to see him in the Octagon,” Volkov said of the newly crowned heavyweight champion Jon Jones. “I’m hoping for my turn to come as well… If everybody stays active, then I’ll be able to get to my turn faster because more guys are going to be fighting. Because of how big a legend he is, it would be really nice to share the Octagon with [Jones] one day and to get the honor to fight him in the Octagon.
“I’m not joking myself. I understand what my position is in the division. I know I have to still go through a lot of obstacles to get to Jon Jones, but when I get there and if I get there, I think our fight would be very competitive and I think I could really show him an interesting, competitive fight.”
Standing in Volkov’s way from reaching a coveted title shot against Jon Jones is Romanov, an accomplished wrestler from Moldova who racked up five consecutive UFC wins before suffering his first professional mixed martial arts loss against Marcin Tybura at UFC 278: Usman vs Edwards 2 in Salt Lake City.
Volkov is well aware of the skills Romanov possesses, especially if the fight hits the mat. After a successful but short stint in Los Angeles to close out training camp for his fight with Rozenstruik, Volkov set out to California for five months to get a change of scenery from his native Russia and prepare in various west coast gyms with elite American talent.
“I worked a lot on my wrestling skills because I know that [Romanov] is going to be a wrestler, so I wanted to make sure to tighten up those skills,” Volkov said. “It’s not a skill that’s bad for me, it’s just a skill that I don’t get so show a lot so I had to make sure I brought it up [in training] because I don’t get to practice it [in the Octagon] that much.”
“This time, I came to America about five months before [my fight]. I trained in California. I trained at different gyms with different American sparring partners, and it was good for me. The change of scenery, the change of [gyms], the change of sparring partners. I got to work on the things I really needed to work. It’s very different than what we practice back at home. It was good for me to get out of my comfort zone and get these skills up.”
Despite his latest loss to Tybura, Romanov has looked exceptional through his first six fights in the promotion, earning four finishes (three submissions and one TKO) in his five victories, including a Performance of the Night bonus in only his second Octagon appearance against Marcos Rogerio de Lima.
Not many UFC athletes on the roster can compare their professional MMA experience to Volkov, though, who enters his 46th professional fight this weekend, but Volkov was quick to acknowledge the experience Romanov’s garnered in just three years. The problem lies in Romanov’s level of opposition, which “Drago” isn’t too impressed with.
“Six fights is not that little,” Volkov said. “He’s got six fights under his belt but really, I think that he’s lacking in experience because when I started, right from the very beginning I was fighting names. It was [Roy] Nelson, [Stefan] Struve and [Fabricio] Werdum; those were my first fights. At this time, even though he’s a great wrestler, it seems as though the first time he got a [tough] opponent in [Marcin] Tybura, he lost that fight. So, I think that even though he’s got good skills, he just needs a little more experience. I think I studied him very well; I saw what kinds of skills he possesses and I’m prepared for those skills and will be able to solve that puzzle on Saturday.”
Volkov was very happy to earn a lightning-fast finish over Rozenstruik back in June, but it doesn’t seem as though his goal is to repeat that same performance. Actually, at the time of his interview with UFC.com on Wednesday, Volkov doesn’t know just how quickly he plans on solving Romanov’s puzzle. He’ll figure that out Saturday morning.
“I’ll wake up on Saturday and throw the dice,” Volkov chuckled. “If the dice says, ‘Finish the fight early,’ that’s what I’ll do. If the dice says, ‘Go the distance,’ I’ll go the distance. So, it really just means flip a coin. We’ll flip a coin on Saturday and see how the fight’s going to go.”
UFC Fight Night: Yan vs Dvalishvili took place live from The Theater At Virgin Hotels Las Vegas on March 11, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive all the action at UFC Fight Pass!