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Alex Volkanovski (right) with coach Frank Hickman ahead of his seminar at the Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA gym. Photo: Criscarlo Chua

UFC: Alex Volkanovski motivated by haters who think Max Holloway is better, says coach – ‘that gets him up in the morning’

  • Frank Hickman thinks Australian is already greatest featherweight of all time, and will underline it in career-defining trilogy fight
  • ‘This fight excites him, because people still say Holloway’s a great, great fighter, and that he’s better than Alex,’ coach says

Alex Volkanovski already has a strong claim to being the greatest featherweight fighter of all time – but he is going to make sure there can be no doubt, according to his coach Frank Hickman.

The UFC featherweight champion returns to the Octagon next month for what could be a career-defining trilogy fight against Max Holloway.

It marks a quick turnaround from his fourth-round TKO victory against “The Korean Zombie” Jung Chan-sung in April, with the 33-year-old Australian heading almost immediately back into camp after a brief stop-off in Phuket.

“Volk doesn’t have to prove anything for me, and I’m sure his teammates and coaches agree, because we know he’s the best featherweight of all time,” Bangtao Muay Thai & MMA’s Hickman – who cornered Volkanovski for his last two fights in the US – told the Post in Phuket.

“But this is just more writing the history books for him, it’s what he wanted to do. He jumped right around and turned back into camp, so my hat’s off to him.

“He’s a true professional in and out of the cage, the same as Israel [Adesanya, UFC middleweight champion], with a great coaching staff behind them, great gym, great following, great support for their communities.”

UFC: Volk’s quick turnaround no surprise – ‘his work ethic is insane’

Former champ Holloway was comfortably outclassed in the first fight, a unanimous decision victory for Volkanovski in Las Vegas in December 2019.

But some fans – and even UFC president Dana White – scored the second bout in July 2020 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi in the Hawaiian’s favour, despite the champ getting the nod from the judges in a split decision.

Volkanovski (24-1) has since gone on to successfully defend the belt against Brian Ortega and Jung – but the doubters remain.

Alexander Volkanovski celebrates after defeating Jung Chan-sung at UFC 273 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Photo: USA Today

“I would think so,” Hickman said, when asked if a third win would finally shut those people up. “But there’s always a lot of naysayers and doubters that you have to prove wrong.

“Like Volk said, this fight excites him, because people still say Holloway’s a great, great fighter, and that he’s better than Alex.

“So that gets Alex up in the morning, that gets him motivated, gets him going. He’s excited and looking forward to the challenge.”

Max Holloway punches Yair Rodriguez in their featherweight fight on November 13, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Zuffa LLC

The 30-year-old Holloway (23-6) has rebounded from his second loss to Volkanovski by reeling off dominant unanimous decisions over Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez, to reassert himself as the No 1 contender.

“It’s a fight, anything can happen. Max is an unbelievable fighter,” Hickman said. “Great team, great coaching staff. They’re gonna do their homework, as we will.

“But I think Volk is just getting better and better each fight and it’s been showing. I think his skills just keep levelling up. I’m excited for a great fight, I think everybody expects a scrap.”

Alexander Volkanovski punches Max Holloway in their UFC featherweight title fight at UFC 251. Photo: Zuffa LLC

Volkanovski and Holloway’s trilogy will serve as the co-main event of UFC 276 on July 2, with the Australian’s City Kickboxing teammate Adesanya in the headliner against Jared Cannonier.

Adesanya and Volkanovski are also neck-and-neck at Nos 2 and 3 on the UFC’s pound-for-pound list, and Hickman predicts their healthy rivalry will continue.

“They’ll definitely try to stir each other a bit, as they should, but I guess that’s a good problem to have – arguing who’s gonna be the main and the co-main of an event this magnitude,” Hickman added.

Israel Adesanya celebrates following his victory against Marvin Vettori at UFC 263. Photo: USA Today

As for “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya (21-1), Hickman predicts another comfortable day at the office as the Nigeria-born New Zealander bids for a fifth successful title defence.

“Izzy seems to be widening the gap after each fight,” Hickman said. “It’s a testament to his gym, his coaches and his support system out there.

“Jared Cannonier is a dangerous fighter – he’s got a lot of power in his hands, he’s been getting better and coming along really well, he mixes it up. But I think Izzy’s IQ might be too much for him.”