UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski isn’t the type of fighter to spew hate for the sake of it. Although, after a recent stint on the UFC’s popular show, The Ultimate Fighter, with upcoming opponent Brian Ortega, Volkanovski put the pleasantries to one side.
“Ortega is a spoilt little brat. He’s high maintenance. He thinks it’s all about him,” Volkanovski told Wide World of Sports. “Him and some of his coaches were very arrogant. There was no bad blood going into it, even our first fight of the year. Going into this one there is a bit of bad blood.”
Volkanovski and Ortega were given coaching roles on the show, which is airing now on ESPN, ahead of their UFC 266 bout on September 26. It’s the Aussie’s first main event with the promotion, and the ploy genuinely instilled a sense of rivalry between both fighters. It was a different experience for Volkanovski. Most of the interactions with the opponent is limited to weigh-ins and press conferences, but on this occasion he was spending extended amounts of time with his rival for the taping of the show. And naturally, time revealed all.
“How he acted was unprofessional when it came to the coaching,” he continued. “He was always late never on time. Some of the comments he made, like, ‘We’re on Ortega time’. He’s a little princess.
“I got to see this during the time we spent. But now I get to watch the reality show and the little comments they make in the episode. Some things he said during out interaction and the things he would say on the camera afterwards.
“There’s a lot that you don’t see in the episodes and there was plenty of time to figure out who Ortega was. He’s not the guy I originally thought he was. He’s a little diva.”
Volkanovski said he went into the show with a light-hearted approach and wanted to “have fun with it”, and promote the fight at the same time. Their first fight was rescheduled after the Australian tested positive to COVID-19 earlier in the year, and there was a mutual respect between the two. Yet it didn’t take long for Ortega to rub the champ the wrong way.
“The way he paraded around the house when they won their fight. His coach would constantly take shots at my team. ‘Your boys can’t win,’ all that stuff. ‘Your boys are useless.’ Right in front of them.
“I said ‘mate are you trying to have a go at me? These guys are here, it’s their dream.’ Then the tables turned when we won back-to-back and then they went quiet.
“You don’t see me parading around, that’s the type of guy I am. We might be winning but there are guys in there, their dreams are crushed I’m not going to parade in front of them. I’m not the kind of guy to rub it in.”
For the first time in his undefeated UFC career, Volkanovski admitted he felt ill will towards an opponent. While that might seem like an advantage in the fight game, making things personal can take the focus away from the task at hand. Volkanovksi isn’t worried.
“I’ve been angry with opponents before and its worked out even better for me. I went out there and really showed I had something to prove before the UFC,” he said.
“I’m really calculated and won’t let this stuff get to me. It’s not like I’m going to be uncontrollable. It just makes me want to train harder.
“It’s not just that, you want to finish all your fights. But sometimes you need to strategise. I’ve proved when I go out there and do what I need to do to win no one can beat me. I’m the best in the world. Sometimes you’ve got to make a statement. And that’s what I’m going to do.”
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