Following his first-round knockout loss to Islam Makhachev, Volkanovski (26-3 MMA, 13-2 UFC) attempted to control his emotions as he explained why he accepted the lightweight title challenge on 11 days' notice.
“I don't want to sit there and obviously make excuses,” Volkanovski told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a post-fight news conference. “You know what I mean? Obviously, I'm a big believer in preparation and stuff like that. But I back myself, so that's the decision I made. You know what I mean? I've probably made decisions… I could've made better decisions, but he's not somebody you should be taking a short notice with. But I needed it.
“A lot of people will say it's for the money and all that, but it was much more than that. It was hard. It really is hard for athletes. Sorry. … I never thought I'd struggle with it, but for some reason when I wasn't fighting or in camp, f*ck, sorry. … I was just doing my head in. I needed a fight.”
The storybook ending was for not. A head kick from Makhachev three minutes into the fight swiftly marked the beginning of the end. Volkanovski swerved clear of misrepresenting any explanation of failure as an excuse, as he tried to wrap his head around his psyche and decision-making.
“This opportunity came up and to be honest, I wasn't training as much as I should've,” Volkanovski said. “But I thought I had to do it. I had to take it. I'm telling myself it's meant to be. I was struggling a bit not fighting, doing my head in. I don't know how. Everything's fine. I have a beautiful family but I don't know. You just need to keep busy. That's why I just asked the UFC to keep my busy. I just need to be keeping busy. I need to be in camp, otherwise I'm going to do my head in.”
While many fighters may experience the raw emotions of a fall from the top following a title loss, Volkanovski remains sitting atop a different mountain. He still holds the UFC featherweight title and indicated a defense vs. Ilia Topuria is “locked” for January, pending medical clearance. The hunger for competition was not satisfied by Saturday's performance.
“I need to be busy,” Volkanovski said. “Again, it's just I think my purpose obviously now is family and fighting. When I'm not fighting, I don't feel like I' ticking all the boxes. I need to be ticking all the boxes. I don't like wasting time.”
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