Russian heavyweight Alexander Volkov is looking to work his way back to title contention — and the next step comes this weekend in the main event of UFC Vegas 18.
“Drago” is coming off a win over Walt Harris, but he’s facing a different sort of beast atop the Fight Night card: the legendary Alistair Overeem.
“It’s a big fight for me. I’m really excited about this, that I get to meet him in the octagon,” Volkov told Cageside Press on Thursday, during a virtual media day to the promote the event. While the former Bellator champ has fought some impressive names in the past, including ex-heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum, he agreed that Overeem was his biggest fight to date. “It will be a big challenge for me. We’ll see how it goes.”
A lot has been made about Volkov’s height and reach heading into the fight. Striking is right in his wheelhouse, of course. “We will see, because we both like striking and stand-up,” Volkov said when asked for his thoughts on the match-up. “But maybe [one] of us will try to make a takedown or something. But I hope it will be a tactical fight on the stand-up.”
As to what a win over Overeem would mean, “I hope this fight puts me back to the [title picture],” Volkov stated. But he is not about to look past the man he calls “a big name, a legend.”
“I feel like [Overeem]’s a little bit in good shape right now. So I just want to finish him February 6, and we will see what we do next,” he explained.
When Volkov talks about returning to the title picture, it’s hard not to recall his loss late in the third round to Derrick Lewis at UFC 229. “Drago” was quite literally just seconds away from earning a shot at then-champ Daniel Cormier. Instead, Lewis knocked Volkov off with 11 seconds remaining in the fight.
“I don’t really think about this a lot, because I feel that my time will be in future. I feel that I’m growing with the fights,” Volkov suggested when asked about that moment. “I’ve become better and better with every camp. I think that I can get this belt in the future, so I feel I’m okay with this loss, nothing more.”
Meanwhile, the UFC’s heavyweight division is heating up. Overeem vs. Volkov is just one of a number of upcoming fights extremely relevant to the title picture in the weight class. In the coming weeks, we’ll see Lewis vs. Blaydes, Rozenstruik vs. Gane, and of course, Miocic vs. Ngannou 2.
All of which Volkov called “good fights” on Thursday. Fights that are “very close, a lot of fighters, big guys who can challenge for the title. It’s a good time to be there in the UFC right now. I love it.”
Alexander Volkov faces Alistair Overeem in the main event of UFC Vegas 18 (UFC Fight Night 184) this Saturday, February 6 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, NV.