Volkanovski to show Topuria champion pedigree at UFC298

Fraser Barton |

UFC featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski wants to teach ‘cocky’ opponent Ilia Topuria a lesson.
UFC featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski wants to teach ‘cocky’ opponent Ilia Topuria a lesson.

Experience goes a long way in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Australian featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski plans to use that to his full advantage when he takes on Spaniard Ilia Topuria.

The pair meet in Anaheim, California on Sunday (AEDT), with Volkanovski chasing a sixth title defence on his return to the 145-pound division.

He only trails Brazilian José Aldo (7) in the all-time UFC featherweight title defences. 

The NSW native last fought in October when he moved up to lightweight and accepted a rematch with Islam Makhachev on 11 days notice, a fight he went on to lose in the first round.

Spurred by a full training camp and enjoying his opponent playing the villain in the media, Volkanovski, 35, says the title bout is all about him exuding his experience and teaching the “young cocky kid” a lesson.

“He has to talk a big game, he doesn’t really have much to back it,” the Australian champion told AAP.

“I just need to be that experienced fighter that goes out there and teaches the young cocky kid a lesson.”

Topuria, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, is the No.3 ranked fighter and is undefeated in the division with a 14-0 record.

He boasts eight wins via submission, four via knockout and nine first-round finishes.

Volkanovski said he could “make it look easy” by finishing Topuria in the opening round but instead he wants his opponent to experience championship pedigree. 

“I want him to feel what championship level looks like and feels like,” said Volkanovski. I want him to understand that before I take him out.

“I want him to feel it first and then take him out –  let him at least have one round and realise that: ‘wow, ok, this is different’, and then put him away.

“I need him to really understand that and then maybe he can be even better fighter and a great champion one day, when I’m gone.”

Volkanovski is the second-longest reigning titleholder in the 145-pound division and last fought at featherweight in July, 2023, defeating Yair Rodriguez via TKO.

He has since adopted wisdom from NFL great Tom Brady, following the seven-time superbowl champion’s visit to Australia. 

Volkanovski said hearing how Brady kept himself motivated in the latter stages of his career had reinvigorated his mindset to stay atop the UFC game.

“Everyone was still raving about how good he was … he knew he could do better and he was holding himself accountable,” Volkanovski said of Brady.

“I can relate because I’m always trying to be better, I always expect better from myself.

“I want to see that 25-year-old (fighter) and I’m not happy if I dont.

“I make sure I get myself to that sharpness, that fitness, and I hold myself accountable and that’s what keeps me in such great nick and keeps me young.”

Volkanovski boasts a 26-3 career record and seven first-round finishes.  Thirteen of his wins have come via knockout and three by submission.