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Alexander Volkanovski fully focused on Brian Ortega, plans to 'break him early' at UFC 260

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Kevin Iole spoke to UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski about his new "Cooking with Volk" show on YouTube, finally training for someone other than Max Holloway and his UFC 260 co-main event matchup versus Brian Ortega.

Video Transcript

KEVIN IOLE: Hey folks. I am Kevin Iole. And on March 27, the UFC will have its own version of March Madness. Two big title fights, of course, Stipe Miocic, the champion against Francis Ngannou in the main event-- heavyweight championship match. In the co-main event. It's going to be a barnburner, I think. Alex Volkanovski, the featherweight champion, against Brian Ortega. My guest right now is not only the featherweight champ, but one of the best cooks in the UFC. "Cooking with Volk." Alex Volkanovski, how are you champ?

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: I'm very good, man, very good. Oh, man, I should have worn my chef's hat instead of the beanie, but maybe next time.

KEVIN IOLE: You didn't get the request that I had put in with the UFC for you to do that, actually.

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: Oh, I apologize, mate. I missed that one.

[LAUGHTER]

KEVIN IOLE: How did you get into cooking and doing a cooking show?

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: Mate, I just love my cooking. I love food. You could tell by my earlier rugby league days. You could probably tell I love my food. Just the European background, you know, Macedonian and Greek heritage. I know we love food, and I've always cooked [? stuff. ?] If you had my Instagram, everyone knows that I love my barbecues and whatnot. I'm always cooking.

And then I just thought, I've got my YouTube channel, and I was like, mate, I'm cooking anyway. I might as well put a camera in front of you. And let people see it. Because at the end of the day, people that are into sports and MMA, they love their food, too. They love their barbecues, so they can really appreciate the cooking. So I started that, and mate, I've had nothing but good feedback. People are absolutely loving it. So I'm going to keep that up.

I might even do an episode while we're here in Vegas. Do like a fight-week edition. And just, yeah mate, good fun, man. I really enjoy it, mate, I love that type of stuff. It gives me something to do in between training and family. You know what I mean? So it keeps me busy, keeps me sane. I enjoy it.

KEVIN IOLE: I loved the wagyu beef that you were cooking. I was getting hungry just watching that thing.

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: How do you like your steak?

KEVIN IOLE: Kind of medium.

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: Medium? Yeah, I like mine pretty rare, as you could see. Mate, oh, that was good. I'm telling you what. I was literally biting that with my lip, and that was just full on a party in my mouth. So that was cooked very well. And that lamb souvlaki was incredible as well.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, that looked good. Well, I'll tell you what. You just got a few more days so you can eat like that when you get done with Brian Ortega. And I guess the first question about the fight would be, you're happy when you look across the ring you're not going to see Max Holloway standing there.

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: Yeah, man. Look, you're doing so many interviews, and people were like, man, you've been preparing for Max a long time. And I was. I was like two years preparing for Max. You know what I mean? So it's crazy. And even before we had the title fights, I was a backup for the Frankie Edgar and Max Holloway. So It was a long time I was preparing for Max Holloway. And again, even though I've had my eye on Ortega a long time, as well, even though I was rising up the ranks, I always knew that we would probably eventually meet.

So I've always had him on my mind. I've always had him on-- and I've go my eye on all the guys-- it's just the type of guy I am. But it's good to have new challenges. And it's exciting because, again, there's a lot of areas that are dangerous for me. Obviously we know about Ortega's grappling. And, obviously, he's known for his knock-out power. He's a finisher. And now he's got some new skills that he's brought into his camp and into his sort of style as well. So he's definitely no no easy fight.

But again, I just believe I'm just on a whole other level. And I can't wait to go out there and prove myself. You know what I mean? And again, it's going to be good to get out there and do my thing. I just want to get back in there, man. It's just been too long since my last fight, man. What is it? Seven months or something. I like to fight regularly. I want to be a-- I like to be competitive. I like to be in there as much as I can, but obviously in these times, it's hard for people and contenders in the fight and whatnot. But yeah, man, I'm just glad to be able to go out there do I thing in less than two weeks.

KEVIN IOLE: You said you had your eye on Brian, for a long time. So I guess I will ask you the question. Since he was with TJ Dillashaw's camp. You fought the Korean Zombie in his last fight. And you scored a finish over the Zombie, which is impressive in and of itself. Did you see anything different in him in that fight than you had seen when you had watched him prior to that?

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: I did, yeah, definitely seen some-- well he had two years off. He had two years off, and in the fight week leading into his last fight, he was saying that he was working on a lot of things. Did we believe it? Was it just all talk? But he went out there proved that that's exactly what he was doing. Because he has definitely evolved as a fighter. The Ortega 2.0 that people are saying, you know, I believe it. It's real. But he definitely has evolved as a fighter. He's a complete fighter now, plus all the finishes. He's obviously got the finishing style. He's a finisher, but now he's got a lot of other tools. And he's got the brains behind him in his team and in his fight IQ as well.

So it's good. Again, he's always been a fight that I've looked at because, again, of his jujitsu. And earlier on, for me, if you remember a lot of my earlier fights, again, I've evolved so much since back then. But a lot of my fights were more grappling, wrestling-based where I put the pressure on and then I'll grab him and punch my way into takedowns and whatnot. That was always something that I'll always be like, all right.

With Orgeta you've got to be careful of that. You cannot just punch away into careless shots, careless takedowns, because he'll wrap that neck up like that. So that's something that I've always had my eye on. But again, I've obviously evolved so much. People watching my fights back then, they thought I was just a grappler. Now people watching my last fights, they think I'm just a starter. You know what I mean? They've got no idea how well-rounded I am.

But, I mean, at the same time, this is MMA. It is going to be mixed martial arts. Even though I say he's dangerous on the ground, it doesn't mean I cannot go anywhere near that. But again, I'm not going to be doing any careless shots or anything like that because, again, he's a finisher. Again, when I say there's new challenges, they're real. They're real. I go out there and I do the wrong thing, that could be over. You know what I mean? Even though I'm durable and whatnot and obviously resilient and all that type of stuff. But again, this is MMA. It's a crazy business that we're in.

So I'm going to go out there and obviously nullify what he's good at. But again, my pace is just going to be too much. That's what I plan on. Really putting the pace on. Breaking him. I want to break him early and get that finish. Obviously we're always chasing the finish. It's always going to be hard when you've got tough, durable guys in front of you. And all the top guys that are durable and known for their chin. But again, a pace-- you know I mean-- no matter how good you chin is, no matter how durable you are, when you are starting to break, you are going to leave a lot of opportunity to get the finisher. And that's what I plan on doing.

So I can't wait for next week. Again, there's going to be doubters. There's going to be people thinking I can't go out there and win. I can't go out there and get the finish. I can't go out there and grapple with him. Let's see if I prove them all wrong in all areas. Let's see. Let's see where we go with this.

KEVIN IOLE: I'll tell you what, you out-grapple him and that's going to shoot you way up in the pound for pound [INAUDIBLE].

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: That's saying something. That's saying something.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, I know. He's amazing. Hey, I don't know if you've thought about this, but you are 22 and 1, but if you win this fight this will be your 20th consecutive victory. And in modern MMA, that is kind of a milestone. You win 20 in a row, and that puts you on an elite level. And if I'm not mistaken, I think this would be your 10th in a row in the UFC if you win it. What does that mean to you? That's kind of Khabib territory. And I think that's kind of like that rare air. There's not too many people that do that type of thing. 20 wins in a row in MMA. What would that mean to you if you were able to pull that off?

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: Man, it's an accomplishment, especially when you're at the top fighting all the top guys. You know what I mean? It definitely is. And anyone that can keep a winning streak that way is very impressive. You know what I mean? There's respect to all the guys that are-- when you're in the MMA, we respect everyone that fights in general. You know what I mean? Obviously it's impressive. This is a crazy sport. It really is. Things can go wrong. To be that durable, you know, there's going to be times when you go and knock the gong. You aren't going to be 100%. You know what I mean? There's going to be-- you might just not show up that day, you might be injured, you might have a bad stylistic match-up. You know I mean? There is so much-- and then it's a mixed martial arts, small gloves. There's so many different areas. You know I mean? It's a crazy sport.

So for anyone that can rack up streaks like that, it is pretty impressive. You know what I mean? And again, that's why I believe that when we talk about GOAT status and stuff like that. You look at Aldo and to be on top for so long, to be champion and defending so long. There's going to be days where he didn't show up when he was defending his belt. He still went out there and got the job done. And there's going to be days where the camp wasn't the best. There's going to be days where it's a whole different stylistic matchup that he might not have been prepared for. And still go out there and a win, win, win, win. That's really saying something. That's what I plan on doing.

That's why I say Aldo's a GOAT. Just purely because of that. We've had great champions in our division, nonetheless. But that's what I'm chasing. You know what I mean? I want to keep that streak going. I want to defend, defend, defend. And just show that I'm going to be GOAT. But again, there's still a bit to go, but I want to have a busy year. I'm going out there. This year I want three fights if I can get three fights this year. You go out there and win. Defend your belt three times, mate, you're right up there. You're right up there. You know what I mean? And that's really saying something. And that brings a streak-- we have defenses as well as streak and so many defenses. You're in GOAT talks not only in your division but in the UFC pound for pound as well.

KEVIN IOLE: Do you ever think-- like I hate to dwell on it-- you've had one loss in your career. But like, you look back and if you were 23 and 0 as opposed to 22 and 1. Does it ever cross your mind like, damn, what happened that one night? I mean, obviously, it is what it is. But I mean, I wonder just sometimes when you're sitting there laughing if you just think back to that night that you lost.

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: Man, I don't. Not my bit. You know I mean? Even us talking about the streak. Yeah, it's impressive and all that. But I don't think of it. I don't look at it myself like I'm 20 now. I'm 20 odd streak, or whatever it is. I'm not like that at all. I don't really pay too much attention to that. So I don't care about that loss because of this position I'm in now. Again, we just want to be successful. Right? We just want to be-- we just want to keep moving forward. Yeah, we want to just hit new goals. Obviously, having that streak is impressive, but at the same time, I'd still be where I am today. And that's all I am. I want to be further.

So again, I'm not looking at this streak. I'm looking at what's next. What goal am I going to hit next? I'm look at what's in front not behind me. So again, you know what I mean. I want defenses. I want GOAT status in my division. I would love GOAT status in the UFC. You know what I mean? Double-champ. You name it. There's no end goal. We just want to keep being-- you know, we want to be successful. And to do so we want to keep hitting goals and keep moving forward. The sky's the limit. We just want to keep going, mate. So that's all-- I just look forward.

KEVIN IOLE: You mentioned the double-champ thing, and I don't know if it's fair to call Israel Adesanya your teammate. But you train with him at his camp, occasionally, right? So Adesanya loses the title fight. And I think it exposed him. There's a guy that's a great athlete, a great champion, how difficult it is to do that. Do you think that people don't understand how difficult that challenge is going up weight classes and trying to be the absolute, very best at a second, higher weight class when you're already a champion one.

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: Man, we just spoke earlier about all the-- even just having a winning streak and like all these-- again, all these problems are going to have. You can have bad nights in the office. You know what I mean? When you just didn't turn up, mixed martial arts, you got all these crazy things that happen in our sport and then you add on a whole different weight class on top of that. You know, man, it's tough. This sport's tough enough. And then moving up, that's a whole new challenge as well. But again, it's just the sport.

I believe that Israel doesn't get taken down one of them rounds, he wins. I don't believe he was going to get knocked down. I believe he was pretty comfortable on the feet, although it was definitely competitive. I believe that he was quite comfortable there. Jan did a great job as well. I thought Izzy would be a little bit too much for him on the head. But he showed that he definitely handled himself, even with the striking.

And then, obviously, that weight did play a factor once he was on top. While he's trying to get him down earlier in the rounds, Izzy said the hips were on point. It made it hard to get in on him. But once he was on top and laying on him, you see that the weight did play a bit of a factor. So, yeah, it was hard to get him off.

But again, he didn't get that-- he didn't shoot in that exchange. He shot maybe-- try to shoot earlier from a different combo. That might not happen and Izzy might win. And that's how crazy this sport is. But again, obviously Jan fought a great fight. Competitive the whole fight and then going out there and just, I'm going to take this guy down. And get on top of him. He did it in the fourth. And then thought, you know what, this is my way to victory. I'm going to do that in the fifth. And he when on to do that. A credit to him. He did a great job.

But Izzy's still in high spirits. He's still doing fighting. He's just going to move forward. Again, there's going to be hurdles but we just got to move forward. We just look ahead. Stop looking back. That loss is gone now. How do we move forward? What goals can we hit moving forward?

KEVIN IOLE: I love that attitude. That's awesome. I'll get this thing wrapped up here really quickly. Talking about being a double-champ, if you beat Ortega-- and I know we're taking a big leap here before the fight-- but if you beat Ortega, that means you have consecutive wins over Aldo, two over Holloway and Ortega. And even though you're in maybe the best division in the sport. I mean, the featherweight division is loaded. I think people wouldn't argue if you wanted to go up. Would you want to go up to 155 to fight whoever the champ is? Or would it have to be like, say, Khabib? Would it be-- because I wanted to de-thrown Khabib. Or, if it was Dustin Connor winner, would you fight that person? Would it matter to you?

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: Man, look, I guess whoever's champ. You know what I mean? But it's just-- I always say, like obviously, I've got my arm in the right division. And I keep making myself clear. Obviously people are just going to run with whatever they want. But I want to defend my vote in my division. And there's going to be times where the division is going to get stale. And then at times like that it's like, all right, let's move up. So again, I still got work to do in my division before I move up. I'm a realist. I'm going to be real with that. And I'm honest so I'm not going to bullshit about it.

So I know I'm going to go and defend my belt a couple of times this year. And then we're going to look at that [INAUDIBLE] division. Whoever it is there-- whoever it is, it doesn't matter. Again, like obviously, Khabib, I mean, look. Look what he has done in the sport. To go out there and just be in the octagon with him would be an honor. But then you look at stylistics and things like that. Again, look, I'm a pretty hard man to hold down, and I look at like these challenges not because I'm going to take him out, whatever. It's truly like I reckon I'll get up. You know what I mean? Even though he controls next level, I am one hard man to hold down. I got these really short legs, these little legs, these little limbs. You know what I mean? It's easy for me to get back to my feet. Yeah, little stumps that I have. I'm pretty good at getting back to the feet, and then I'll be starting my gas tank and then I've got my striking. I believe I can give him problems.

So there are challenges that I would love to take on. But again, you know, he's probably retired, so who knows. But I mean, right now I've got my eye on the division. If that happens, that happens. But again, right now I've got Ortega, I've got my division, and I've got [INAUDIBLE] division whoever it is on top.

KEVIN IOLE: I want to end it with this, then. As I mentioned, I think the featherweight division is the best division in the sport. Dana has said Holloway, based on that [? cater ?] win is going to get that in the next championship fight. A lot of really good fighters out there-- Zabit sitting there, right there. Yair Rodriguez, and whatnot. If you had your druthers, you're successful here, who do you get next? It looks like you're probably going to get Holloway, based on Dana's comments, but if it were up to the champ and the champ alone, who would it be?

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: Man, look, obviously I've been getting asked these questions a lot, and that's going to happen. But I've got my eye on Ortega. I'm just making it clear that Ortega-- and I want to show him the respect by saying that he's got my full focus-- and that's what I'm really worried about. Again, we're getting close to the fight But after the fight, I'm happy to answer them questions.

But let me just leave you with this-- money talks. So it doesn't matter who it is, money talks. And I'm sure that is a lot. Obviously, that shows that we all know what people are talking about, what Dana's talking about. Money talks, but again, I've got Ortega. He's got my 100% focus and my respect. And I'm going to go out there and do my thing, and then I'm happy to answer all the questions. And then see what a Dana and the matchmakers have say.

KEVIN IOLE: You'd eating a lot more wagyu steak if you could pull that one off, buddy. So we wish you the best. Alex Volkanovski on March 27 going up against Brian Ortega in a fantastic fight at UFC 260. Alex, I appreciate you, brother. Thank you. Good luck. See you next week.

ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI: No worries, mate. Thanks for having me. Later.