Abu Dhabi, UAE — Former Bellator champion Alexander Volkov has been flirting with the top of the UFC’s heavyweight division for a while now. But whenever he has seemed ready to break through to a title shot, the Russian has fallen short.
Case in point, his last fight, against Curtis Blaydes. Depending on scheduling, Blaydes is likely to be in line for the next title shot after Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou 2. Whenever that fight might happen. Volkov could have taken Blayde’s spot, but instead lost a unanimous decision to the American back in June.
Ahead of UFC 254, where “Drago” returns against Walt Harris, Volkov (31-8) detailed what he took away from his last bout.
“I need to believe in myself a little bit more. Because I was in really good shape, but there were things I cannot control, making me stop a little bit in the fight,” he explained. “After the fight, I had a lot of cardio and power that I didn’t use in the fight. I was a little bit fresh after the fight. I started to understand this just in the last rounds.”
The lesson he learned against Blaydes was “to believe more in myself, in my cardio as well, and stay more aggressive,” he stated.
Volkov was in good shape after that last fight, he said during this week’s UFC 254 media day. He didn’t want to lose that, so getting a quick turnaround was important. He asked the UFC to give him a fight “as soon as possible.” As it turned out, with so much going on in the world, he’d have to wait til October. But on the plus side, he now fights on one of the biggest cards of the year.
When it comes to Walt Harris, “it’s a good fight,” said Volkov. “It’s one of the [only] possible fights right now, in all of the UFC heavyweight roster.” The other heavyweights all seem to be paired up, or are out for some reason or other. “He’s one of the guys who is free right now. And also, he’s a big name. He’s a big guy. He has really good striking skills. I think it will be a really nice fight with him.”
There’s another factor with Harris, however, Volkov later explained. Asked about the “Big Ticket” and his recent loss to Alistair Overeem, the Russian admitted that some referees probably would have stopped the fight when Harris had Overeem down in the first round. That didn’t happen, however. Overeem survived, came back, and finished Harris via TKO.
“This means that it’s possible to break him,” Volkov suggested. “When he lose this fight, it was not just totally a knockout or something. He just stopped doing anything. He was just lying and waiting when the referee stopped the fight. It wasn’t the total damage to Harris.”
“This is what I learned from this fight,” Volkov added. “It [will be] good for me to [put] pressure on him, and avoid his aggressive attack.”
Meanwhile, Volkov himself will look to prove that he remains one of the top fighters in the heavyweight division. “For sure I am [a top contender],” he stated. “I understand that I made a little step back. Every loss makes you take a step back. But we have a lot of examples of fighters who lose their fights, and then came back and became champions. ”
UFC 254 takes place on “Fight Island” (Yas Island) in Abu Dhabi at the Flash Forum on Saturday, October 24. The main card airs live on PPV following televised and online prelims.