Forget the taunts, the jabs, the dogged doubters who will always find a way to put disrespect on Alexander Volkanovski’s name.
The Australian UFC featherweight champion is no longer fighting to prove them wrong or to show another side to his game.
He has already shown plenty and even if the 33-year-old dominates Max Holloway in their trilogy bout at UFC 276 in Las Vegas, those critics will just find another reason to discredit the champion.
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This is a “legacy” fight for Volkanovski. The Australian says so himself, calling it a chance to put himself in a position to tackle a completely different beast entirely – the 155-pound weight division.
“That is why I think about this third fight with Max as being the big one,” Volkanovski said on Tuesday.
“It’s going to give me that time to go for that double champ status. That is what I want.”
And if a shot at Charles Oliveira eventuates, Volkanovski has already seen signs of weakness to believe he can snap the Brazilian’s 11-fight win streak.
“He’s a dangerous fighter,” Volkanovski said.
“Obviously he’s shown that he can be beaten. He showed that in his last few, even though they were exciting, he was almost beaten every one of those times.
“With me, I ain’t gonna give him the opportunities. If I land big on someone, they ain’t gonna get the opportunity to land big on me. That’s not how we roll. I’m gonna land big and not get hit.
“I plan on going up and moving up. He is dangerous. I think it would be a massive fight.”
First though, Volkanovski’s full focus is on Holloway and finishing his arch-nemesis in such dominant fashion that there is no longer any doubt that we are witnessing an all-time great in the featherweight division.
“I’m gonna go out there and I plan on putting a beating on him this time,” Volkanovski said.
“I really do want to make a statement. I did originally want this trilogy to shut people up, but right now, it’s not about that. I don’t care.
“This is what’s gonna be a legacy fight for me. Really taking him out again will really put my name out there and raise that bar.”
But if Volkanovski has his hand held up high again, don’t be surprised if he looks to take the biggest step in his career on home soil.
“Hey Australia, maybe we do it here,” the featherweight champion said to rousing cheers.
The UFC last came down under earlier this year when Israel Adesanya defended his middleweight title belt against Australian Robert Whittaker at Marvel Stadium.
Adesanya called it a moment he would “never forget”, not just in his fighting career but in his life in general, although the Kiwi is not going to follow in Volkanovski’s footsteps and go after a third fight.
“He’s a great fighter but I know how that book ends,” Adesanya said of Whittaker.
“I’ve read that book twice already. First time with a quick read, second time a little bit longer… I don’t like reading the same book over and over again.”
Jared Cannonier, Adesanya’s opponent in the main event at UFC 276, is another book entirely for the defending champion though.
Unafraid to come forward and hit you with aggression and power, Cannonier takes calculated risks – something that could work in his favour but also prove his downfall.
He is quite the challenge for Adesanya but not the Kiwi’s greatest in his career.
“I don’t believe so, that’s my first inkling,” Adesanya said.
“But it doesn’t mean I underestimate him. Everyone’s a tough challenger. He’s a guy that packs a lot.
“Jared still carries that strength around so I can’t overlook him but I don’t think he’ll be the toughest challenge. I honestly think I’ll make this easy. I really believe I’ll make this look easy.”
Confidence and swag comes naturally for Adesanya, although it is still something fellow Kiwi Kai Kara-France is learning.
But on the back of a three-fight win streak, including a statement knockout victory over Cody Garbrandt, Kara-France is ready to shed the underdog tag that has followed him around for so long.
“It’s kind of triggering,” Kara-France, who fights Brandon Moreno at UFC 277, said of that tag.
“It brings me back to when I was in high school getting bullied for my height. I guess getting overlooked, underestimated.”
He will be underestimated again this time around, having already lost to Moreno at UFC 245 in 2019.
But that was over two years ago and this is a new Kara-France, one who is ready to “shut up all the doubters” and “spoil the party”.
“So Moreno,” Kara-France warned, “don’t blink baby”.
And don’t blink on the Australian and New Zealand talent creating waves in the UFC because if you do, you are already missing out on history being made.
“That like is one champion, two champion, about to be a third champion from this region of the world,” Adesanya said, looking towards Kara-France.
“Let’s just honestly soak that in for a second. It’s just mind-boggling. It’s something that’s never been done from this side of the world in this era.”