UFC featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski has amped up the pre-fight mind games ahead of his rematch with Max Holloway on Sunday, saying the former champion is still "salty" over his loss in their first meeting.
Volkanovski ended Holloway's near six-year win streak at featherweight in December last year, a fight the Wollongong native claimed on all three judges' scorecards - including a five-round shutout on one card.
Holloway has voiced his disagreement with the decision and Volkanovski says that's only fuelled his desire to remove all doubt when they meet at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi.
"I think he's quite salty about the whole thing to be honest," Volkanovski said.
"It's quite surprising, I didn't think he'd be a sore loser but that's my take on it. He's been a bit sour about how everything's going. It's not a good look for him but I think it's getting to his head.
"I don't know where he's going with this whole narrative, maybe in isolation he's losing the plot. Maybe he's playing the game because there's people there believing that shit, that actually think it was a close fight.
"That's why I'm going to go out there and finish him. He wants to say he thought he won, I'm going to put him away and I'll guarantee you his head's going to be down when my hand gets raised because he's going to know he lost.
"Winning isn't enough for me right now, I want to go out there and show everyone he can be finished and put a real sour taste in his mouth if he's going to act the way he is. If he wants to be sour about [the last fight], wait till I take him out this week, he's going to be real salty then."
As is the case in all rematches, pre-fight talk has revolved around what changes both fighters will make, but Volkanovski said his rival will be playing into his hands if he changes his game too much.
"There has to be adjustments but my overall game is a big problem for him," Volkanovski said.
"I've seen his look, I know his look and I don't believe he can change it. There's little things we're going to change and adjustments but he is the fighter he is, and he's been successful for so long, because of his style and he can't change that too much.
"If he's so worried about leg kicks or whatever it is, he's going to change his whole game and put himself in unfamiliar waters and that's just going to make the fight even easier for me.
"He's not going to try and outsmart me because that didn't work. I think he's going to take more risks, which makes for an exciting fight, he's going to put himself in dangerous positions. If he plays that game which I'm almost certain he will, I'm getting that finish inside the five rounds."
For his part, Holloway scoffed at the "salty" jibes, saying it's Volkanovski who has more to prove in the return bout despite carrying the belt.
"Go back to any interview, I never asked to fight the dude the guy wanted to fight me so I guess he has something to prove," Holloway said.
"For the first one, I thought I did enough but obviously there's three people who had it the other way. They're the only opinions that mattered that night and they didn't pick my way.
"You look at the stats, the only thing he out-struck me in was legs [kicks]. If I got kicked by Jose Aldo 20 times, I know what would come first, the vaccine for this COVID, or me being able to walk. Alex kicked me 80 times and I went to the after party and danced the night away.
"It is what it is. I'm not complaining. The man's got a chip on his shoulder, he wanted to fight me [again] so he got his wish."
Their last meeting was Holloway's fourth title bout in 12 months, but he didn't believe that was a factor in his first loss at featherweight since 2014.
"Not at all, I'm not going to take that away from him," Holloway said.
"I felt good, if you ask me how I feel from that fight to this fight I can tell you feel better that's about it. Sometimes when you're training you get lost in the grind and you don't know what's wrong or what's banged up because you're so used to it as fighters.
"This pandemic is crazy times but it was a little blessing in disguise, I got to hang out with family, I got to focus on recovery a little bit more. I'm not going to take nothing away from the last fight because it was the best me. Now, I got a better me that's coming this weekend."