Volkanovski was initially set to share the Octagon with Max Holloway for the third time. After dethroning “Blessed” in 2019 and immediately defending the title against him seven months later, “The Great” set the score at 2-0 in his rivalry against the 145-pound GOAT contender.
After Holloway rebounded with mightily-impressive victories over Calvin Kattar and Rodríguez in 2021, he earned a chance at redemption and a third shot at adding the first blemish to Volkanovski’s record. However, just days after the fight was announced for UFC 272, Holloway was forced to withdraw after aggravating a previous injury.
Following the news, it didn’t take long for a host of fighters to throw their names into the hat to replace the Hawaiian. Among them were former two-division UFC titleholder Henry Cejudo, Giga Chikadze, and Josh Emmett.
Despite returning to the UFC after a lengthy layoff last November and falling to defeat Holloway, Rodríguez also called out the champ, and he did so in a particularly hostile manner.
“Do I really need to raise my hand @danawhite ? Heal up quick champ @blessedmma @alexvolkanovski I had respect for you before, but now, fuck you! You little bitch you know I’m next”
Volkanovski: Yair Callout “Blows Me Away”
Volkanovski’s mindset and attitude as featherweight king have always been clear to see: whoever is the best, the top contender, and deserving of a title shot, will get a title shot. Judging by that criteria, it’s understandable why the Australian was surprised at Rodríguez ‘s callout, especially the aggressive nature of it.
During a recent appearance on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, Volkanovski listed all the reasons why the Mexican was never going to get the shot, including his 2020 USADA suspension, his failed matchups with Zabit Magomedsharipov, and his recent loss to Holloway.
“One thing that surprises me and what annoys me, is the way he (Rodríguez) acted about it as if it was a no-brainer that he should be the next in line,” said Volkanovski. “And then starts carrying on and swearing and saying, ‘I had respect and fuck you,’ and all that. Are you serious? Let’s remember, let me bring you back, let’s be real for a second. Over two years you were pretty much running from Zabit? I didn’t wanna bring that up but you put me here. So, you’re running from Zabit, pulling out, you’re getting suspended from USADA, you’re being a diva and the UFC had so much hassle with you. It was a bunch of chaos.
“The UFC ain’t gonna take that’s serious. And then, let’s remember, he just lost. I don’t get it, I really don’t get it. You haven’t fought for how long, then you’re coming off a loss, and then you get angry at me because I don’t sit there and call you out.”
Rodríguez initially rejected a fight with Zabit in 2018, which led to his release, albeit a brief three-week one. The pair were then scheduled to clash multiple times, with “El Pantera” pulling out due to injuries.
Shortly after his UFC Vegas 8 bout with the Russian fell through, Rodríguez was handed a six-month suspension for failing to notify USADA of his whereabouts and being unavailable for testing. After eventually returning at UFC Vegas 42 a couple of months ago, the Mexican fell on the wrong side of a unanimous decision verdict against Holloway.
Given all those factors, Volkanovski is baffled by Rodríguez ‘s callout. He encouraged the #3-ranked contender to say it to his face if his remarks were truly how he feels and not just an attempt to hype up the matchup.
“It just blows me away. The way that some of these people (act),” added Volkanovski. “I don’t mind the guy. Whether he just thought that was his way of getting the title shot, maybe, I don’t know. But if he’s being real… Mate, if you’re gonna carry on like that, say it to my face. Or was it just trying to get the shot and build a bit of hype, I don’t know. But if that’s really what you feel about it, bring that same energy person as well. I didn’t do anything wrong. You’re the one who didn’t fight for over two years and who is coming off a loss.”
With Rodríguez and a host of other names failing to secure a shot at Volkanovski’s title, the champion now appears set to defend his gold against divisional veteran “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung at UFC 273 in April.
Do you agree with Alexander Volkanovski? Was Yair Rodríguez wrong for calling the champ out like he did?