One of the prominent narratives ahead of UFC 294 was Alexander Volkanovski’s supposed money-driven decision to agree to a rematch with Islam Makhachev. It’s a narrative that the champ peddled through his media obligations ahead of the bout.
But according to the reigning featherweight king, that can’t be any further from the truth. During the post-fight media scrum after his first-round KO loss in Abu Dhabi, an emotional Volkanovski opened up about a deeper reason.
Alexander Volkanovski opens up about mental struggles
As Alexander Volkanovski explained to reporters, he didn’t expect to struggle with mental health issues. According to him, it happens during his off-season.
“Obviously, a lot of people will say it’s for the money and all that, but it was much more. It is hard, it really is hard for athletes.
“I never thought I’d struggle with it, but for some reason, when I wasn’t fighting, or in camp, I’d just do my head in. I needed to fight, and this opportunity came up. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t training as much as I should’ve, but I had to do it. I had to take (the fight).
“I’m telling myself it’s meant to be. I was struggling a little bit not fighting, doing my head in. I don’t know how, everything’s fine. I’ve got a beautiful family, but I don’t know.”
Another high-profile fighter who was in a similar situation was heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury. In 2016, “The Gypsy King” likewise revealed his struggles with depression and the dark thoughts that came with it, all of which also happened during his time off from competition.
“I’m in a very bad place at the moment,” he said in an interview at the time. “I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me.
“I don’t know if I’m going to see the year out to be honest. I am seeing help, but they can’t do nothing for me. What I’ve got is incurable. I don’t want to live. All the money in the world, fame and glory, means nothing if you’re not happy. And I ain’t happy. I’m very far from it.”
‘A silly decision’
Alexander Volkanovski’s decision to step in on less than two weeks’ notice to fight Makhachev in a rematch was laudable, to say the least. But after reflecting on what had happened, the 35-year-old elite fighter admitted it was likely a ‘silly decision.’
“He’s not somebody you should be taking a short-notice (fight) with, but I needed it,” he said of Makhachev.
“Maybe it was just a silly decision under them circumstances. There are decisions you don’t want to make against someone like Islam. And I’m not taking nothing away from him.
“Maybe this happened, (and) gave me a kick up the ass for being silly. Maybe it won’t happen again now. Maybe that’s what it was. Maybe this would kick me back into gear, get back in there, get back to the featherweight division and kick ass there.”
Alexander Volkanovski wants to keep busy
In terms of his fighting future, Alexander Volkanovski wants to keep active. Echoing his statement during his Octagon interview with Daniel Cormier, he remains focused on UFC 297, where he’s scheduled to defend the 145-pound title against Ilia Topuria.
“You just need to keep busy. That’s why I asked the UFC to keep me busy,” he said. “I need to be keeping busy, I need to be in camp. Otherwise, I’m gonna do my head in.”
UFC 297 will take place on January 20th in Toronto, Canada.
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