With a big opportunity ahead of him, Alex Volkanovski has his sights set high.
This weekend, “The Great” will meet Darren Elkins on the preliminary card at UFC Boise.
Although he boasts an impressive 17-1 record and hasn’t lost a fight – or round – since making his UFC debut, the featherweight prospect was pleasantly surprised when Darren Elkins signed their bout agreement.
“He probably deserves more. As much as I believe [that] in a couple of fights everyone’s gonna be looking at me as one of the top dogs anyway, right now they’re not looking at it that way. Some people are, but I mean rankings-wise it’s not there, so it doesn’t really make too much sense taking on a young, up-and-comer. But again, credit to him. Obviously, he’s willing to take the hardest road to the title,” Volkanovski said.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a gamer and he fights whoever they put in front of him; that’s just what he’s always done.”
Tough as they come, Elkins is currently ranked #10 and riding a six-fight win streak. Though, for what it’s worth, Volkanovski is the favourite.
With a big opportunity, Volkanovski is confident he can capitalise on it in a big way.
“I think I’m knocking him out and I believe that’s gonna send a real statement. Again, I got a lot of respect for him, he takes a lot of damage, he takes it well, but I just think that he will not be able to take my power. I believe I’m one of the hardest hitters in the UFC’s featherweight division and I reckon I’m gonna show that come July 14th.”
“The Damage” – a moniker emblazoned across Darren Elkins’ chest – embodies the fighting style for which he is renowned. More than once, has the Indiana native overcame unbearable circumstances of adversity to pick up a bonus-worthy victory. But Volkanovski says he’s prepared for the gritty, never-say-die attitude Elkins is celebrated for.
“I’m always prepared for a war, even if someone’s not a grinding type of guy,” said Volkanovski. “I expect to grind people down so I need to be fit for me to work my game, so it’s nothing different for me.”
Volkanovski is yet another compelling sign of the surge in Australian and New Zealand MMA talent. Between June and July this year, ANZAC fighters have been showcased more prominently than ever before.
“The ANZACs are taking over,” said Volkanovski. “You hear what everyone’s saying, the ANZAC takeover. We’re all on a roll. We’re a real threat to the UFC now. It wasn’t long ago, a few years ago, when we were just there to fill in spaces. Pretty much that’s what it sort of felt like; well, that’s how the Americans looked at us anyway. But now, we’re real contenders. They’re trying to hype us all up and we’re showing it in our performances as well.”
More than just geographical relatives, there’s a strong sense of comradery between the two nations and Volkanovski embraces that mateship. Though he is based in NSW, Australia under the tutelage of Joe Lopez at Freestyle Fighting Gym, Volkanovski has also trained at City Kickboxing in Auckland, New Zealand. After visiting prior to his last fight against Jeremy Kennedy, Volkanovski returned for this camp and said he’d “levelled up” in just two weeks at the burgeoning gym.
A former opponent of City Kickboxing’s Shane Young, Volkanovski had nothing but praise for his victory at UFC Singapore and had even trained with him before the fight.
“He’s legit and it was just really good to see. I was stoked for him and he put on a great performance,” said Volkanovski.
Although he admits having to fight Young was “a little weird”, there were no hard feelings and it was more or less business as usual.
“It was funny ‘cause I had Brad Riddell in my corner, which, he’s the training partner of Shane. And then you had Eugene in their corner; now he corners me as well. … Even Dan Hooker in their corner, I’ve trained with Dan as well.”
This weekend’s fight will be Volkanovski’s first on American soil and he looks forward to the exposure.
“On this side of the world, I’m pretty well known,” he said. “I want the people on that side of the world to know that I’m the real deal and I’m a definite contender.”
UFC Boise (or UFC Fight Night 133) will be held this Sunday, July 15 (AU) at the CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho. The card will be headlined by former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos and promotional newcomer Blagoy Ivanov.