Las Vegas, NV — Following a thrilling title defense against Brian Ortega atop the UFC 266 card, Alexander Volkanovski says he gets it.
The entertainment side of the sport, that is.
“I’m starting to really come into this whole entertainment business. I get it. So you’re going to see me be the heel from now on, I’m just going to have a go at everyone,” he exclaimed following his Fight of the Night showing in Las Vegas on Saturday. “Nah, I’m joking.”
Okay, maybe Volkanovski isn’t about to become the next Chael Sonnen or Conor McGregor. Then again, despite his protests, the featherweight champ admitted to employing a bit of mental trickery against Ortega ahead of the fight.
“I was giving it to him, trying to get in his head. I said some things, I don’t usually say that type of stuff, but obviously, everyone knows, things were brought up,” Volkanovski stated. “I wasn’t going to do it, heat of the moment, weight cutting, me being the heel now, you know what I mean? [Laughs].”
The “things” in question that were said included ripping into Ortega for a 2014 drug test failure. Volkanovski went off on the challenger at Thursday’s pre-fight press conference, particularly during the associated face-off, hollering that the “drug cheat” didn’t deserve to be there.
Serving as a coach opposite Ortega on The Ultimate Fighter 29 seems to have upped Volkanovski’s profile, but according to the champ, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“The whole thing is, you just didn’t get to see nowhere near enough. Put a camera in front of me, and people are going to like me,” he said backstage on Saturday. “Again, I’m not the type of guy— I’m not going to smash dollys through f*cking windows and carry on and all that, I’m not going to do all that type of bullsh*t. But you put a camera in front of my face, people are going to like me, because I’m a pretty chill dude, I’m a fun dude. But again, I’m not going to go out of my way.”
Volkanovski did admit to enjoying Fight Week, and the build up to the fight. “The whole thing about it. Even building the fight up and all that type of stuff. I’m not usually the type to do that. I’m the type of guy, someone asks me a question, I’m just going to answer the f*cking thing. You’ve got a lot of people, they’ve got these narratives they want to push and all that. I’m just, I’m not like that. I’m chill. You ask me how I’m going, I’ll say ‘I’m f*cking good.'”
“I’m just real, I’m going to say what’s on my mind,” Volkanovski later added. “Put a camera in front of me, people get to know me, they’re going to love me.”
While his relationship with Ortega on the show and ahead of the fight was acrimonious at best, after going five tough rounds — not to mention having to fend off some tight submissions — Volkanovski had nothing but respect for Brian Ortega.
“Nothing but respect now. I thought I was going to break him. I thought he was broken after the third round,” the champ stated. “The ref decided to give him a minute to answer questions, he wasn’t answering them right. I’m telling you I was looking, and he was, ‘look this way’ and he’s looking completely the other way.”
Ortega appeared to struggle with other directions as well. “They waited until he answered it right, and then, ‘let’ get into it.’ I was like, ‘what’s going on here?’ They gave him an extra minute, I thought he was broken, he literally couldn’t even see where he was going.” Volkanovski assumed the end was nigh, thinking “That’s it, that’s it, it’s over.”
Not so fast. “I go in there, started putting pressure, and he’s firing back just like he was, like nothing happened. So he’s tough, he’s durable, and credit to him.”
Watch the full UFC 266 post-fight press scrum with Alexander Volkanovski above. More coverage of the event can be found below.