Alexander Volkanovski’s first defense of the UFC featherweight title may have a sense of deja vu about it.
After all, the Australian champion is about to put his belt on the line against the man he won the championship from last year: Max Holloway. The pair will face off for the second time at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi this weekend. It’s the kick-off show of the infamous “Fight Island” series of events, and Volkanovski vs. Holloway 2 serves as the co-main event.
Max Holloway has “been saying some pretty crazy things,” UFC featherweight champ Volkanovski exclaimed at the UFC 251 media day Tuesday. “He’s not really being himself, I believe.”
The source of this ire from the current champ is Holloway’s claim that he was point-fighting in their original encounter. Volkanovski pointed to that meeting to counter the argument, noting that the commentators were questioning whether he could keep up with Holloway’s output, given how much he put into his own punches.
“[Holloway]’s known for his pitter-patter. He’s known to just work people out early, and then just put the volume punches in. He’s never been a power puncher,” Volkanovski observed. “He’s got all these weird narratives, so many different directions that he just sounds a little crazy at the moment.”
“I don’t know if he’s playing the game, and he’s just trying to get people to believe the sh*t he’s saying,” Volkanovski suggested. But if Holloway is just playing the game, it doesn’t appear to be working. “I’m not letting it get to me. It seems like it’s getting to him, it seems like he’s salty and he’s being a bit of a sore loser. I guess losing is tough, maybe that’s why he’s acting like that, I don’t know. At the same time, he’s saying some crazy things.”
To Volkanovski, however, “Blessed” seems noticeably different than he did prior to his title loss. “There’s something different about the way he is. I don’t know what it is. I don’t hate the guy. I’ve got respect for the guy,” said Volkanovski. “You can see clearly after my fight, I was saying ‘he’s a great champion, and I want to be a great champion too.’ That’s how I know Max Holloway. And to see him say these things and act like the way he’s acting, it just doesn’t suit him. It’s not how he should be going about it. I don’t know why he’s taking it that way. I’m blown away by it, but at the same time, it makes me want to put a bit more of a beating on him as well.”
As for the suggestion that Holloway cut out sparring ahead of the rematch, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Volkanovski was flabbergasted. Perhaps Holloway is just fighting for the money, he suggested. But if it is true, it doesn’t bode well for the ex-champ. The Australian revealed that he had gone as far to ensure he had permission for full contact training during the pandemic.
“If that’s the case, I really don’t think [Holloway]’s committed to this fight like he should be,” opined Volkanovski.
UFC 251 takes place Saturday, July 11, live on PPV. Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway 2 serves as the co-main event.