Why the stakes for Alex Volkanovski’s third bout with Max Holloway are higher than ever before

Alex Volkanovski can’t hear the doubters anymore and according to the UFC’s featherweight king nobody else will once he has conquered arch-rival Max Holloway for a third time and begun his quest to earn second championship belt.

Volkanovski has already beaten the Hawaiian twice — once in dominant fashion to win the title in 2019 and again in a razor-close split decision the following year.

This time — when the two meet at UFC 276 in Las Vegas in July — the stakes are even higher.

Volkanovski won’t just retain the title if he wins, he’ll have an almost unassailable case as the greatest featherweight of all time, a contender for the UFC’s top pound-for-pound fighter and in prime position to move up and challenge for the lightweight title.

“What I plan on doing to Max puts me in a very, very good position going forward,” Volkanovski said.

“We talk about GOAT status in the featherweight division, number one pound-for-pound, then it’ll be a no-brainer to go up a division and look for a second belt.

“The question isn’t why would you do it — it’s why wouldn’t you. Even though I’m 2-0, people still want to see it.

“I’m not there to prove anything to anybody. But this is the biggest fight, people want to see it, so let’s do it.

“People are still trying to throw his name in the GOAT conversation — imagine going 3-0 against him, in his prime. I win this, there’s no question. There’s no question.

“I’m glad Max has looked so good since we’ve fought, because it makes me even more legit.”

Holloway has indeed been in superb form since his second loss to Volkanovski, dispatching respected contenders Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez in dominant fashion.

Volkanovski already has two victories over Holloway. (Getty Images, Steve Marcus)

His presence as the top contender creates something of a roadblock for fighters heading after Volkanovski’s title – it’s hard for contenders to rise to title contention given there’s two championship-calibre fighters in the same division.

However, that’s what makes this the ideal time for Volkanovski to chase another title should he down Holloway again. A third win over Holloway will have cleared out the contenders at featherwright and a lightweight tilt would give time to up and coming contenders to rise to championship status.

The weekend’s chaos regarding former lightweight king Charles Olivieria, who was stripped of the title after he failed to make weight, creates a tantalising possibility of Volkanovski facing the Brazilian for the vacant title towards the end of the year.

Volkanovski says he still regards Olivieria as the champion, but he’ll campaign for a lightweight tilt regardless of who holds the belt.

“I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen,” he said.

“That’s exactly what the UFC are thinking as well. The timing of this fight will match up very well for a chance to be double-champ – it’s all falling into place to keep the hype going, keep the same energy.

“I’m levels above in the fight game, I want to be levels above with hype, put beatings on people, get pay checks, keep rolling.

“He’s (Olivieria) lucky in a sense, because everyone still thinks of him as the champion. I do, anyway. He’ll fight for the belt next anyway, he’ll pretty much be defending it, that’s how people will look at it.”


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