Alexander Volkanovski hopes to be considered the greatest featherweight of all time but he’s not ready to put himself on top of that list just yet.
As he prepares to defend his title for the third time at UFC 273, the 33-year-old Australian knows he’s already held in high regard amongst his peers as well as fight fans but he still looks at one of his former opponents as the best there’s ever been at 145 pounds.
“I believe I’ve still got more work to do [to be the greatest],” Volkanovski said at UFC 273 media day. “I give [Jose] Aldo the respect. To be champion for as long as he was, he’s incredible. No matter the opposition that I’m facing like himself, Max [Holloway] and that, I’m fighting absolute killers, it’s pretty clear.
“But at the same time, to be champion that long — there’s gonna be days you don’t show up, bad weight cuts, injuries, you name it. We’ve all done it and it’s a nightmare to not be on, on a day where you’ve got to go out there and defend your belt. For him to be a champion for so long, that’s saying something.”
Aldo’s nearly five-year long reign as champion came to an end in 2015 after he suffered one of the most shocking knockouts in mixed martial arts history after he was flattened by Conor McGregor in just 16 seconds at UFC 194.
That win propelled McGregor into the argument regarding his standing alongside the best featherweights in the sport, although Volkanovski is quick to pump the brakes on actually putting him anywhere near the top.
According to the reigning 145-pound UFC champion, McGregor’s relatively short run at featherweight ultimately disqualifies him from sitting alongside the other fighters who held the title in the UFC.
“You need [title] defenses, that’s the thing,” Volkanovski said. “I’m going to give him respect. The dude can fight. He made some bad decisions and all that type of stuff but he can fight. To take out Aldo in Aldo’s prime, that’s saying something as well. Aldo is still showing he’s still in his prime, he doesn’t age.
“But again, I feel like I’ve definitely done a lot more than him so out of all the champions, I’d say he would have to be at the bottom of the list. He ain’t gonna like that but whatever.”
Volkanovski’s arrival in the UFC actually came almost a year after McGregor defeated Aldo to become champion so they never actually crossed paths while both competing at featherweight.
Considering he already has a win over Aldo alongside two victories against Max Holloway in the past, Volkanovski would love nothing more than to add the only other featherweight champion in UFC history to his resume even if the fight had to happen in a different division.
“Everyone’s going to throw [Conor McGregor] out there cause it’s the money fight and all that type of circus around it and all that but again this is a guy he’s held this belt in my division as well,” Volkanovski said. “I’ve taken out the other guys, I haven’t had a chance to do him.
“Obviously, that’s something incredible but he ain’t making featherweight. If I’ve got to move up to take that title, I would, so that’s something that intrigues me. When you talk money, hype, all that type of stuff but not just that, someone else that’s held this [UFC title] and I want to take them all out. The legends of my division, I want to take them.”
Assuming Volkanovski can get through “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung on Saturday night, he would move to 11-0 in the UFC with three title defenses, which would still leave him four fights away from tying Aldo’s record in the division.
Because Volkanovski has already vanquished Aldo and Holloway, he doesn’t believe his resume necessarily needs as many title defenses to reach all-time great status but he’s still not satisfied enough to put himself on top just yet.
“Do I think I need that many defenses? No, I don’t,” Volkanovski said. “Do I think I’m there right now? No, I’m not going to claim that yet.
“I’m going to go ahead and do my thing. People want to claim it for me, all good but I’ve still got some work to do.”