Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Alexander Volkanovski is serious about challenging for the lightweight title, and his coach believes that when he does, Charles Oliveira presents the most difficult test for the featherweight champion.
“Definitely Oliveira’s the more difficult match-up in my opinion,” Volkanovski’s coach Eugene Bareman told Submission Radio. “It just depends. Oliveira has a more well-rounded skillset, so there’s more to deal with. I mean, Islam’s got good stand-up, but that just depends on who you are looking in, I guess. But yeah, I just think Oliveira would be a more well-rounded skillset for Volk to deal with. Whereas Islam, perhaps we could narrow a couple of things down and concentrate on those few things. Which is easier said than done, because just like in much the fashion of Khabib, Islam excels. He may only do one or two aspects of the sport really, really well, but he does them at the highest level. So, that’s the difficulty.”
Volkanovski recently defended his featherweight title against the Korean Zombie at UFC 273, winning by fourth-round TKO. It was Volkanovski’s third title defense and in the aftermath, “The Great” began angling for an opportunity to move up the 155 pounds and challenge for the belt there. A former rugby player, Volkanovski has competed as high as welterweight previously, and so despite the perceived size disadvantage he would have moving up to lightweight, Bareman says that Volkanovski would have no issues with the jump up.
“Every single person, doesn’t matter who you are, what experience you have, he grabs you and you feel something different,” Bareman said. “It’s a different feeling from anything that I’ve ever felt from someone of that stature. And I think the lightweight guys still feel that. Look, I got middleweights and light heavyweights that feel it. They’re like, ‘f***** hell’. They’re really surprised when Alex grabs them. And you’re talking about guys like two or three divisions up from him. Lightweight’s only one division above him. So, I think you’d see the same Alex, just that strength and that raw physicalness that he brings.”
But before he can worry about moving up to lightweight, first Volkanovski has to settle unfinished business at featherweight. The champion is set to face Max Holloway for a third time at UFC 276. With two wins already over Holloway, it’s a fight that Volkanovski has been less than excited about before, however, given the buzz and the demand from the fans for a trilogy bout, Bareman says that he and his student are looking to make a statement with this fight, perhaps one that will launch them into a lightweight title bout.
“Personally, I don’t think the fight is necessary at all, Bareman said. “But like I said, that’s just my personal view. You beat someone twice. But like, I’m not the person that pushes the buttons behind the scenes, and the fans want to see another fight, Max has done really well and showed why he’s a champion. He’s had two really good wins over two really top-class opponents. So has Alex. So, even though I don’t think the fight necessarily needs to happen cause we’ve already won twice, I’m not against it happening again. It’s another good challenge, and if it’s what the people want to see, let’s give it to them.
“We just need to put a dominant stamp on this fight and kind of, I guess, be done with it, this chapter of Alex’s career.”
UFC 276 takes place on July 2 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
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