Alex Volkanovski is happy to start a conversation around mental health, but the UFC featherweight champion has taken to his YouTube channel to assure fans he's in a good head space despite a crushing defeat to Islam Makhachev on Sunday morning.
Volkanovski took a shot at all-time greatness in stepping up a division to take on lightweight king Makhachev on 12 days notice, losing 12 kilos in 11 days to make it into the cage in Abu Dhabi.
It rightfully won him plaudits from all quarters of MMA fandom, but the lack of preparation was brutally shown up in the cage, with Makhachev knocking Volkanovski out with a pinpoint head kick three minutes into the opening round.
It was vindication for the Russian, who'd had his legitimacy as champion called into question following a razor-thin decision win over the Wollongong native in February.
Read more: Why defeat shouldn't dull Volkanovski shine
The kick may well have put the rivalry, and Volkanovski's shot lightweight gold, to bed. It saw an emotional Volkanovski address the post-fight press conference fighting back tears and speaking of mental struggles in the lead-up to answering the call.
It prompted fears over the 35-year-old's mental state, but he moved to "clear the air" following his emotional reaction on Wednesday.
"Straight after the fight I did the post-fight press conference and I want people to understand it was raw emotion that you saw, but I want everyone to know I'm OK as well," Volkanovski said.
"You've got to remember I did have a bit going on [mentally], I just got tagged, I got knocked out, I lost, I knew legacy-wise [it was significant]. All these things start to come into play. That was obviously hurting me.
"I think I was just disappointed that I wasn't the professional disciplined person the last few months as I usually am and the timing of this fight coming while I wasn't in the gym as much as I'd like to be.
"That's what you saw, me being upset with myself in the fact that I know I usually would be in a better position [than I was]. I wasn't dealing with all the other things as well as I should've and you saw a worse performance because of that.
"I usually deal with not being in camp a lot better, I just didn't deal with it as well the last few months. The result was me not putting in the best performance that I could have put on. Obviously that hit me after being knocked out."
The short notice call came hot on the heels of elbow surgery following a victory over Yair Rodriguez in July that coincided with the arrival of his third child with wife Emma.
"I still stand by that decision because I believe in myself all the time and I've been a big advocate of people challenging themselves in these sorts of positions," he said.
"High risk, high reward, I'm a big believer in that and I was chasing greatness. I'm in my prime and sometimes you can put a bit of pressure [on yourself] because I know I need the most of me in my prime because who knows how long I've got, my days are numbered.
"Me and my wife are great, we have a beautiful family and I want everyone to know that. I don't want anyone thinking that it's not like that. I want everyone to know it was more the timing, and that's why you saw me a little bit more vulnerable in the press conference after getting knocked out and having that sort of situation."
"Even though I'm fine, I'm glad you guys got to see that sort of raw emotion and we do touch on the mental side of things when it comes to everyone, not just fighting, athletes, men, anyone in general," he said.
"It's good for awareness and I think these are conversations people should be having because I know a lot of people do battle these [things]. I've got a sports psyche so I have these conversations and I want you guys to know that I'm OK and fortunate enough to have the right people around me.
"Some people aren't fortunate enough to have that. I'm glad you got to see me in a vulnerable position to raise these questions. It ain't weak to speak, we all go through it and I want that to still be the message here."
He appreciates the concern, but the consensus best 145-pounder of all time says he'll be pressing on with that aim.
"I'm in my prime, I need to fight," he said.
"A lot of people are saying 'he needs a break', I don't need a break. I obviously need to talk to doctors to make sure there's no concussion, [Iv;e got] stitches and what not, but I want to get in camp.
"I am the best version of myself, inside and outside the cage, when I have clear direction, and clear direction is me having a fight [booked]. January still looks great to me.
"Ilia Topuria's is obviously a very exciting fight and I can shift all my attention to that. You're going to see a better version of me in January, I promise you that."
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