‘The lights started dimming’ – UFC champion reflects on move that nearly cost him his belt

UFC champion Alexander Volkanovski almost lost the belt to Brian Ortega at UFC 266.

By: Lucas Rezende | 3 months ago

UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski is still the undisputed king of his division after four successful title defenses, but there were a few close calls while he achieved the status. Namely, his unanimous decision victory against Brian Ortega at UFC 266, when ‘T-City’ nearly took the belt from the ‘Great’ the third round of their fight in 2021.

Alexander Volkanovski almost lost the title at UFC 266

Now almost two years after the bout, the UFC champion still looks back on that third round as a career-defining moment for him. Although Volkanovski was able to remain calm and escape the guillotine choke, the Australian was aware that Ortega could have walked away with the belt that night if he made just one mistake.

Nevertheless, Volkanovski gives Ortega full credit for putting him in the dangerous position in the first place.

“Well, tapping was never an option, yeah tapping was never an option,” Alexander Volkanovski told BJPenn.com. “There’s layers to it, so let’s get into it. So I put myself in these positions a lot, and nobody got me as f-cking tired as Brian did. Not even when I would let them, that’s how deep he got it. So credit to him, I was like ‘How the f*ck did you do that that quickly?’, I couldn’t believe how quickly he did it.”

“We get there and I’m like ‘Oh f-ck, I’m in the choke’ and I’m doing what I needed to do.” He said. “Pushing on the hips, he’s done things beautifully, so I was trying to change the mechanics of it to give myself oxygen. It wasn’t working. It wasn’t f-cking working, and I’m like well, I’m going to keep f-cking trying! The lights started dimming, and it was like a movie honestly.”

But losing the belt was not an option for the UFC champion

Ultimately, the thought of losing the featherweight title was all the motivation the UFC champion needed in order to keep on trying to survive.

“At one stage I was like ‘There’s no f-cking way he’s taking this belt away from my family’, it was that type of moment. I’m like ‘f-ck that’, it was never an option. It was either, his arms were going to gas out, or I die.”

Catch Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 290

In his last outing, Alexander Volkanovski (25-2) suffered only his second MMA loss when he tried to score the UFC lightweight title against champion Islam Makhachev, but lost via unanimous decision, in February of this year. The defeat was the 34-year-old’s first loss in the Octagon and the first since his fourth professional match, in May 2013.

During his UFC career, the Great has already defeated some of the most notable names in the featherweight division, including former champions Max Holloway and Jose Aldo, as well as title challenges such as Chad Mendes, Chan Sung Jung and the aforementioned Brian Ortega.

Now, Volkanovski is expected to face interim champion Yair Rodriguez for a title unification bout at UFC 290, on July 8. The card is scheduled to be co-headlined by a flyweight title fight between champion Brandon Moreno and challenger Alexandre Pantoja.

You know you can count on us for quick, consistent quality UFC coverage. Bloody Elbow is an independent, reader supported publication. Please subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with our best work and learn how you can support the site.

Join the new Bloody Elbow

Our Substack is where we feature the work of writers like Zach Arnold, John Nash and Karim Zidan. We’re fighting for the sport, the fighters and the fans. Please help us by subscribing today.

Share this story

About the author
Lucas Rezende
Lucas Rezende

Lucas Rezende is a Brazilian journalist and writer from Belem, Para. He has been covering MMA since 2012 and contributing with Bloody Elbow since March 2015. When not writing, Lucas also teaches English. In his free time, he enjoys reading, slapping the bass guitar and traveling.

More from the author

Bloody Elbow Podcast
Related Stories