Alex Volkanovski has spent many years training at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket. He was also the featherweight champion for Asian Pacific promotion PXC before going on to become a major star with the  UFC.

For the former rugby league player with a remarkable work ethic it has been a meteoric rise. He has won his last eight UFC fights, outclassing Max Holloway over the course of five rounds to take the 145lbs belt in December.

Ahead of their rematch at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi this weekend Holloway has been critical of Volkanovski’s performance in their first encounter. However the champion isn’t exactly losing sleep worrying about his opponent’s recent remarks,

“Look, I don’t know if he’s playing the game and he’s just trying to get people to believe the s**t he’s saying, I don’t know what it is. I’m not letting it get to me. It seems like it’s getting to him. It seems like he’s salty and he’s being a bit of a sore loser, but I guess losing is tough and maybe that’s why he’s acting like that. He’s saying some crazy things.”

Weird things

Volkanovski was selected to join the team at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket after a tryout in 2014. He has been training in his native Australia for this fight. Thailand currently has strict border controls and quarantine procedures in place, making it almost impossible for fighters to travel in and out.

His opponent claims to have not had access to a training camp at all. Holloway has claimed to have prepared for the fight using Zoom to connect with his coaches online but Volkanovski has his doubts about this,

“He’s saying some weird things. He supposedly didn’t do a camp with training partners (but) I don’t believe that one bit. I don’t believe any of that.”

Being the best

However Volkanovski does wonder whether Holloway already has one eye on a move up to lightweight,

“Maybe he’s just like, one last crack, make a bit of money. ‘If I lose I move up. I don’t know if I want to keep doing this to my body anyway in this division.’ Maybe that’s where his head’s at.”

By contrast Volkanovski has held the featherweight crown for less than a year. He still has a point to prove fighting at 145lbs and that is exactly what he plans to do at Yas Island on Sunday morning,

“To be the best you’ve got to beat the best. And there’s still some people that think Max might be the best, and he’s not and I get to prove that this weekend.”