Thirty seconds is all it took for Alex Volkanovski to know he made the right decision to switch from rugby league to cage fighting.That's how long the Shell Cove-based concreter needed to have his maiden opponent all but begging for mercy."I won my first fight in 30 seconds. The other bloke's coaches threw the towel in," Volkanovski said."He just came rushing in, so I've thrown a couple of punches straight away and just picked him up and slammed him. I started the ground-and-pound and had him pinned pretty well. He was covering up and they threw the towel in."Volkanovski's second amateur bout in November lasted a little longer, but he emerged victorious and made the decision to turn pro."The next fight went three minutes. The ref stopped it," the 23-year-old said."I was told the bloke went to Thailand for a couple of months of muay Thai training. He was a real tall fella so I was always going to take him down."Volkanovski's confident words shouldn't be misconstrued as cockiness. His nickname "The Hulk" is fitting because he normally wouldn't hurt a fly, but just like the Hulk's mild-mannered alter-ego David Banner, it's wise not to make Volkanovski angry."The nickname came about one day at the gym," he said."Everyone calls me Volko and we were mucking around and I was saying something about the Hulk. My training partners said I had to stick with it, so at my first fight, they announced Alex 'The Hulk' Volkanovski, so that was pretty funny."A former Australian junior wrestling champion, Volkanovski switched to rugby league when he was 13 years old, joining his mates at the Warilla Gorillas.He developed into an integral member of the first grade team and established himself as one of Group Seven's toughest players over the past few years.Last year he starred for the Gorillas in their grand final thrashing of Gerringong, earning the man of the match award. But he always wanted to have a serious crack at cage fighting and has decided to pull the pin on rugby league."At the start of last year I decided I wanted to take it a bit more serious and train a bit harder for it," he said."I want to go to the top if I could, and obviously I'm going to need a lot of training if I'm going to get there.""I concrete for my dad and he gives me the time off to train and get ready for a fight," Volkanovski added.Love it or loathe it, he is convinced cage fighting is here to stay."They reckon it's the fastest-growing sport in the world. It's getting bigger all the time and it's definitely going to be big in Australia," he said."I always watched UFC, ever since I was a kid. I was right into it when I was 14, getting videos out from Blockbuster. Ever since then I've always watched it on Main Event all the time. I've always been into it."When I was watching it back then, barely anyone was talking about it, but now everyone knows all about it."It's mixed martial arts, and the UFC is basically the top of the line - the best of the best." That's where the best MMA fighters go. It's all the same rules and the same sport."I've always been into the stand-up and the fight, but my key is definitely my wrestling, taking them down for the ground-and-pound."My trainer, Joe, at Freestyle Fighting Gym is great to work with and I've got another fight booked in Sydney on February 27 and one in March. I can't wait."I had about 70 mates come up to Sydney for my first fight and about 60 for the second fight."There's a fair few people doing it out of Wollongong now and there's a couple of fighters from down here who've already gone pro. There's a lot of gyms and a lot of people doing it down here."Hopefully I'll be fighting in Wollongong soon."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.