“I’m ready to shock the world … I’ll say ‘I told you so’.”
He said he has more power, strength and has better cardio than the Hawaiian, who has won his last 13 fights in the featherweight division and will have a 12cm height advantage over his Australian opponent.
Volkanovski, on the other hand, has never lost in the UFC, rattling off a series of impressive wins, culminating in May this year with a victory over Brazilian legend Jose Aldo.
He said people have “definitely” taken more notice of him since then, but that they’ll “explode to another level” if he can take home the title next month.
“I was pushing for this fight, and they were telling me it was going to happen but you never know. It was a huge relief when that contract finally came.”
Despite being the outsider, Volkanovski said that the toughest match-ups are behind him and that he would have the edge.
“That’s the thing about this game, styles make fights. Stylistically, I believe I’ve had bigger challenges in other fights,” he said. “He’s a gamer, and it’s still going to be tough, but I believe I’ve had fights that were worse for me. Max is the champion but sometimes it goes a bit deeper than that.
“He’s a smart fighter, he’s at a very high level, but not having the power I have and having to worry about my takedowns, there’s just so many factors that I believe will make this very hard for him.”
It was only a couple of years ago that Volkanovski was working full-time to support his fighting career, a fact that is rarely lost on him.
“It’s not easy, this MMA game. Especially early in your career, there’s not much there financially. Now, it’s all starting to pay off,” Volkanovski said.
Volkanovski left his family behind for that fight in Rio, but said his wife will be joining him in Vegas this time around.
The December 15 card will be one of the biggest in the history of the sport, with three title fights scheduled. Amanda Nunes, who knocked out both Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg, will defend her bantamweight title against Germaine de Randamie, before the “Nigerian Nightmare” Kamaru Usman faces challenger Colby Covington for the welterweight championship.
Matt Bungard is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.