Alexander Volkanovski didn’t go so far to say he regrets taking a rematch with lightweight champion Islam Makhachev on short notice, but he did seem conflicted about whether it was the right call.
Volkanovski, the featherweight champ, suffered a first-round knockout loss to Makhachev in Saturday’s UFC 294 main event in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, marking his first stoppage defeat since his fourth pro bout in 2013. Volkanovski replaced Charles Oliveira on 11 days’ notice. He is now 0-2 against Makhachev and in 155-pound title bouts after losing a competitive unanimous decision to him at UFC 284 in February.
“Obviously, I’m a big believer in preparation and stuff like that,” Volkanovski said at the postfight press conference, according to MMA Fighting. “I back myself. So that’s the decision I made. I could’ve made better decisions. (Makhachev is) not somebody you should be taking a short-notice (fight) with.”
However, Volkanovski said he felt like he “needed” to fight Makhachev when the opportunity presented itself. The Australian said he’s recently dealt with mental struggles when he’s not competing – a restlessness of sorts – and said it helps to have the “direction” that comes with a fight being booked.
Volkanovski added that undergoing arm surgery in July and welcoming his third child in August may have been factors.
“A lot of people will say it’s for the money and all that. But it was much more than that,” a visibly emotional Volkanovski said. “It is hard. It really is hard for athletes. I never thought I would struggle with it, but for some reason, when I wasn’t fighting or in camp, I was just doing my head in. … I don’t know how. Everything’s fine. I got a beautiful family. I don’t know. I think you just need to keep busy.”
He added: “Then this fight came up. I’m like, ‘Hey, it’s meant to be, let’s do it.’ I thought that was what it was. But maybe it was just a silly decision under those circumstances – again, the decisions you don’t want to make against someone like Islam.”
Volkanovski, who plans to defend his featherweight belt next, is focused on the positives.
“Maybe this happened and it gives me a kick up the ass for being silly,” Volkanovski said. “Maybe it won’t happen again now. Maybe that’s what it was. Maybe this will kick me back into gear, get back in there, and go back to the featherweight division, and kick ass there.”
Volkanovski said he still wants to face featherweight contender Ilia Topuria in January, though UFC president Dana White said Saturday he won’t commit until Volkanovski is medically cleared.