Alex Volkanovski is just weeks away from making his belated UFC debut, but the man they call ‘Hulk’ is daring to dream bigger.
That’s why beating Japan’s Yusuke Kasuya in Melbourne on November 27 is a “must’’ for the Illawarra mixed martial artist.
“This is a stepping stone. I was never just looking to make the UFC. I want to win a world title,’’ Volkanovski said.
“All of my fights leading up to this have been do-or-die because a loss was four steps back for my UFC dream.
“I refused to lose back then and I refuse to lose now.
“He [Kasuya] is a grappler. He has got a lot of submissions. I don’t think he is going to want to stand with me. He is going to look to go to ground but I’m very comfortable there. I’m looking to finish him.’’
These are fighting words from Volkanovski, who will finally make his UFC debut, after being denied his “dream’’ twice before through no fault of his own.
His latest heartbreak came in October when the entire UFC Manila event was cancelled following an injury to headliner BJ Penn.
Devastated at the time, Volkanovski now feels the cancellation was a blessing in disguise. He’ll now feature on a stacked card at Rod Laver Arena, head-lined by big-name middleweight contender Robert Whittaker.
“It has worked out so much better for everyone really,’’ the 28-year-old said.
“I’ve fought in Melbourne a lot in the past and have lots of fans there.
“Hundreds of others have indicated to me they are going to fly down to watch. It’s going to be unbelievable. I can’t wait to put on a show.’’
But Volkanovski is more than just a showman. And putting in the hard work to excel in his chosen sport is nothing new for the Shellharbour native.
Volkanovski was relatively small in comparison to other front rowers in the Group 7 Rugby League competition but managed to more than hold his own playing for Warilla-Lake South Gorillas.
In fact he won the Cronin Medal as Group 7 player of the year in 2010 and was named Man of the Match in the 36-6, 2011 grand final victory over Gerringong before retiring to pursue MMA full-time.
“I’m like a little chihuahua. I have little man syndrome. I think I’m 10 foot tall and can take anyone on,’’ Volkanovski only half-joked.
“Being in the lightweight division I have to fight against bigger boys but I’m used to that. I took on much bigger boys on the rugby league field all the time.
“For me it’s about smashing through the ranks and making a statement that I’m the real deal. The ultimate goal is to win a world title.”
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