UFC featherweight world champion Alex Volkanovkski wants his first title defence to be in Australia, despite the anticipated postponement of the card scheduled for June in Perth.
While Volkanovski had not been confirmed for the UFC 251 show at RAC Arena on June 7, it was widely expected he would have a rematch against Hawaiian Max Holloway, who he beat to claim the belt in Las Vegas last December.
However, no agreement was reached for that fight and it's believed an announcement regarding the postponement of the Perth show could be made within a week.
"I just don't think it (Perth) is going to happen. Hopefully they can postpone it and still bring that card here to the Australian fans this year," the New South Welshman told AAP.
The Perth card suffered a blow earlier this week, when women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko pulled out of her fight against Joanne Calderwood due to a leg injury.
Volkanovski felt the the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic was the reason a deal hadn't been finalised for a rematch with Holloway, who remains his preferred opponent.
"I believe it's the biggest fight for my division and I think it's the biggest fight for me and the biggest fight for the Australian fans ... a rematch against one of the greatest featherweights of all time," he said.
Current restrictions mean Volkanovski cannot train in a gym plus wrestle or grapple so he is concentrating on strength work and cycling.
He added the hand he broke against Holloway had fully healed.
Volkanovski hoped other UFC fighters were as diligent in observing the restrictions in their respective counties, rather than seeking to gain an advantage.
"Am I taking more risks because I don't know if my opponent is still doing things we shouldn't, is he still training in a gym?" Volkanovski said.
"You never know but at the same time I believe me on a bad day, I can still take out anyone in my division."
On a less optimistic note, the current economic climate has not helped Volkanovski capitalise on commercial and sponsorship opportunities that would normally flow with winning a prestigious sporting world title.
"I'd be be lying if I said that sponsors are throwing endorsements at people right now," he said.
But the personable fighter has used the hiatus to bolster his social media profile and is still getting some recognition
"Most of the time I forget I'm a champion," Volkanovski said
"But when I walk outside and I'm with the family I'm getting stopped a fair bit, obviously because I'm the champ.
"It's good to know all that hard work has finally paid off and I'm getting the recognition I deserve."
Australian Associated Press