Alexander Volkanovski took a few days to digest his loss to Islam Makhachev, and now it’s clear to him: Taking the fight on 11 days’ notice drastically impacted his performance.
The UFC featherweight champion suffered the first knockout loss of his Octagon career Saturday at UFC 294, falling to Makhachev in the first round of their rematch for the lightweight title.
Volkanovski said he wishes he had more time to prepare for such a daunting challenge.
“It wasn’t me,” Volkanovski said in a video published Tuesday on his YouTube channel. “I think it was pretty clear you could see that I wasn’t me in there.
“You could obviously put that down to preparation. I’m a big believer in preparation – everyone knows that. I just wasn’t prepared as I usually am. But yeah, I think you need to have those sparring rounds, you need to see the shots, defensively and all that. You need to have these bodies in front of you consistently to help you, obviously, when it comes to fight time. I didn’t have that.”
Volkanovski, who had been targeting a January featherweight title defense against Ilia Topuria, got the call to face Makhachev after Charles Oliveira withdrew due to injury.
The Australian pushed Makhachev to the limit in their first fight in February, scoring a knockdown before coming up short by unanimous decision. But Volkanovski said he had trouble letting his fists fly this weekend – and before he knew it, he was slumped against the fence, victim of a devastating head kick.
“Usually, I throw a lot of volume,” Volkanovski said. “And there’s a purpose to that. It doesn’t have to land, but I usually like people fighting my fight. I don’t really give them chances and times to just set things up. I don’t like to let people think, and I let (Makhachev) do his thing. I just stood in front of him.
“We had a range that I wanted to fight at so I could be more dangerous. I knew I would be in danger (at the range I fought Makhachev). I did everything; I just could not pull the trigger. I was talking to myself in there like, ‘Come on, you gotta go, you gotta go, do something, gotta go, you gotta go,’ and I just couldn’t do it.”
Volkanovski still intends to fight Topuria in January, though he’ll need medical clearance first.
“I’m in my prime,” Volkanovski said. “I need to fight. A lot of people are going, ‘He needs a break.’ I don’t need a break. I want to get back in camp. Obviously, I need to talk to doctors, make sure there’s no concussion. … But I want to get in camp.
“Like I said, I am the best version of myself inside and outside of the cage when I have clear direction. And clear direction is me having a fight.”