It wasn't all that long ago most fans and experts alike expected Alex Volkanovski to run through Ilia Topuria with ease. Now, there are those questioning whether the long-reigning UFC featherweight king should be taking the fight at all.
The popular Aussie lost no respect after taking the bout a weight class above his own on just 12 days' notice, but the nature of the stoppage loss has seen plenty question whether he may have lost his edge.
For Volkanovski, it simply re-enforces something he's always known - fans have short memories.
"That's the thing, people quickly forget," Volkanovski said.
"That's all good, now I get to jump back on the horse. I probably won't be the underdog, but there's still going to be people doubting me, so I'm back in this position that I love and I thrive in.
"Having a chip on the shoulder, sometimes it's good, it gives me something to go get. I can use that to get even more excited and motivated to get in there and do what I need to do and remind everyone.
"I don't really care what these people are saying. I'm a lot better at dealing with that [these days]. Obviously I care what people close to me think, but people that are just going to be haters and what not, whatever."
"Even when I was pound-for-pound number one, I always treated it with an underdog mentality anyway," Volkanovski said.
"I've always thought 'I need to get better' even when I was at the top of the mountain, so I don't sit there now going into the fight thinking 'oh no, I'm coming off a loss'.
"Even when things go perfectly, I still know there's things that I can work on and I still expect better out of my next opponent. I expect the best, so I need to prepare for the worst, and I'm really good at doing that.
"People are saying 'is he rushing this, is he rushing that?' We're going through all the concussion protocols. We knew January was probably that a little bit too soon.
"We could have done it, but then that would have been rushed and we don't want to rush anything. We want to be able to really follow the protocols, ease into training and have a nice long camp, which is exactly what February will do for us."
While his shot at lightweight gold has now twice fallen short, barring a few heart-stopping moments in a Brian Ortega choke three years ago, the 35-year-old hasn't looked close to surrendering his 145-pound crown inf our title bouts.
"He's a good little fighter, pretty well-rounded, but I don't think he blends [disciplines] as well as he thinks," Volkanovski said of the undefeated Georgian.
"He's on a good run, he's undefeated, which is good, perfect for my comeback. That adds to that story, people saying he's this undefeated prospect, powerful, [I'm] coming off a knockout loss blah, blah, blah.
"He's probably not a bad dude, but he carries on like he thinks he's the champion already. He thinks he's the king and, no offence, he hasn't swum with the sharks yet.
"I think he needs a bit of humbling. He's still young, so I'm glad I get to be the teacher and maybe he can bounce back when my time's done."
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