After a hard-fought and moderately controversial split decision over Max Holloway, Alexander Volkanovski is moving on to the next-toughest contenders in the featherweight division.
That means ex-champ Henry Cejudo can make as much noise as he wants, but unless the UFC makes it worthwhile, Volkanovski not interested.
“He’s done great things in his divisions,” Volkanovski told reporters after his win in the co-headliner of UFC 251. “I’ve got nothing but respect for the man. But at the same time, me fighting him ain’t helping my legacy. I want No. 1 contenders. If I want to be the GOAT, I’ve got to take out No. 1 contenders.
“If someone’s going to cut in front of the line like Cejudo, pay me the money and maybe we can make it happen. You’ve got to make it worthwhile for me, because I want GOAT status. Taking Henry Cejudo doesn’t really help that. People are going to know I’m expected to win that. No disrespect to him. But this is a whole different league up here with these big boys. If the fight were to ever happen, I’ll show this ain’t his division.”
Cejudo called on Twitter for the winner of the UFC 251 co-headliner, indicating the retirement he declared after defending the bantamweight belt against Dominick Cruz was as temporary as most MMA observers expected it to be.
Then again, what Cejudo writes on social media and says in interviews is often a different thing than reality. For Volkanovski, he’s concerned with establishing his own legacy. On Saturday night, the Australian champ took a big step toward that goal by outpointing one of the best featherweight’s in the division’s history. Although a majority of media outlets scored the fight for Holloway, Volkanovski felt his late-fight surge won the day.
Asked whether he felt any doubt about the outcome, Volkanovski said he trusted his corners on the overall score.
“They were saying it’s up to the third round,” he said. “‘That third round was close, but we think you’ve done enough.’ They’re realists. They’re going to tell me how it is. I was pretty confident I did enough in that third round, and the judges thought so as well.
“This is a crazy sport. For you to come back from being down and not being able to get yourself going and then waking yourself up and being c’mon, you’ve got to bring this belt back to your family, it shows you what type of champion you are.”
Two of three judges gave Volkanovski the fight in the last three rounds via 10-9 scores, while one had Holloway winning the first, second and fifth frame by the same score. Eighteen media outlets scored it 48-47 for Holloway, while nine scored it for Volkanovski by the same margin.
Volkanovski admitted he wasn’t exactly at his best for the early part of the fight, in no small part due to a rude interruption from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency the night prior to the event.
“I don’t want to make excuses, but there were a few things that were a bit off,” he said. “Getting woken up for USADA wasn’t a great start. I don’t know what was the go with that. Playing with my sleep was pretty brutal on fight night. I’ve been sleeping at 7 [p.m.], so at 9, 10 o’clock they decided to come and wake me up to do a USADA test. I don’t know what happened with that.
“But there were a few things I wasn’t really happy with. My shin was still sore from my last fight, so I had to get over that. It was hard to break his rhythm early. He adjusted to that, but then I had to use them anyway, so it hurt. But we got the job done. That’s what champions are all about.”