“I wasn’t surprised. A lot of my game plans have worked very well… I tried telling people we’re ahead of the game, we know things that he does really well – we probably know things that he does that he doesn’t even know he does very well.
“I’m not a cocky type of person, but I’m confident and I said this was going to happen.”
The featherweight UFC division has only existed for ten years. The last two men Volkanovski beat – Holloway and Brazilian Jose Aldo – have held the title for almost that entire time, apart from Conor McGregor’s brief reign in 2015-16.
After the 2019 he’s had, Volkanovski believes he’s well on the way to being one of the division’s superstars himself – but wouldn’t turn down a big money fight in the lightweight division if it came along.
“I’ve had my eye on the division and I believe I can beat them all. Whoever’s in front of me, we’ll work out a game plan. I’m too well rounded,” he said.
“Give me a couple more fights and everyone will start throwing my name around as pound-for-pound number one.”
Volkanovski’s current situation is a far cry from just a couple of years ago, when he was working full-time to support his fighting career. This isn’t the kid who used to listen to music and dream about walking out to a fight – this is the man who did, and became the undisputed champion of the world.
He did so in Las Vegas, with more than 50 family and friends flying from around the world. And it wasn’t just that he won, it was how easy he made it look. Two judges scored the fight three rounds to two in his favour, the other gave him all five.
“Watching back the tape I am a little bit surprised [at the close scorecards]. I’m my hardest critic … I thought it was maybe a little closer than it was, then I watched back the tape and I pretty comfortably won all five rounds, I thought,” he said. “At least they still gave me the win, that’s all that matters.”
The future couldn’t be brighter, but Volkanovski isn’t thinking about who he’ll fight next. The immediate goal is simply to eat some Christmas food and spend time with his family.
After arguably the most impressive year of any fighter in the world in 2019, few could deny he has earned it.
Matt Bungard is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.