In December 2018, Volkanovski knocked out highly-rated American Chad Mendes, winning a $50,000 bonus for fight of the night in the process. Mendes retired after the fight.
The Mixed Martial Arts community was stunned as Volkanovski went from huge underdog to legitimate contender with a second-round stoppage. Not that the man himself was shocked.
“I was more than ready – that was never a surprise. But it was good to let everyone else know, you know what I mean? There’s always going to be doubters, no matter how high you get.”
Now, he will go deep behind enemy lines in front of a fiercely parochial crowd of 15,000 Brazilians. A far cry from a few local louts at a Group Seven rugby league fixture.
“He’s a legend of the sport, but the game’s changing – and he’s just another body,” Volkanovski says. “I’ve got a lot of respect for what he’s done, but this is my time. I’m more hungry, he’s looking at the finish line.”
Aldo is widely expected to retire within the year, after failing twice to regain the title he held for so long. Mumblings of staph infections from the Brazilian’s camp are making Volkanovski question whether or not the fight will even take place.
“I start to think; ‘Do you even want this fight?'” he wonders aloud. “Don’t get me wrong – I’m going to say what I think. If I think Aldo’s looking for a way out, I’m going to say it. If I think I’m going to make him crumble, I’m going to say it. I’m not going to mean it disrespectfully, it’s just what I believe.”
A win for Volkanovski would likely open up a title opportunity against American Max Holloway – and there’s talk it could serve as the co-main event to the Robert Whittaker v Israel Adesanya fight later in the year. It’s a night, when finalised, that could end with two Australian UFC world champions.
“Not only is it huge for me to be on a card like that, it’s huge for our side of the world,” Volkanovski says. “You’re going to get everybody talking. It’s something I’d definitely want to be on, again I’ve got a job to do first, but that’s definitely my goal.”