But two successful featherweight title defenses later, not anymore.
Volkanovski was supposed to face former champion Max Holloway in a trilogy before Holloway pulled out with an injury. Jung ended up being the next man up despite others such as Yair Rodriguez and Henry Cejudo offering their services.
Volkanovski earned the title in a stunning win over Holloway at UFC 245. He would go on to narrowly win their rematch at UFC 251 via a split decision, and some fans believe Holloway was robbed of the victory.
Some fans looked at Volkanovski as an illegitimate champion after the close win over Holloway in their rematch. However, his latest win over Ortega has silenced the haters, at least for now.
During a recent interview with The AllStar’s John Hyon Ko, Volkanovski opened up on how he used to deal with criticism and how it impacted his overall wellbeing.
“One thing I’ve been getting a little deep with some people I’m talking to… This whole champion thing, it can get tough when you’ve got all the eyes on you. Remember, I’m just a normal bloke from a small town, right. So, getting used to the hate and all the criticism and all that kinda stuff, it does get to you. Well, it did. It did get to me. Now, I’m finally—I’ve got nothing to prove to these haters. I’ll be honest, it was affecting me. I always told myself it didn’t, but it did.
“I always felt like I had something to prove to these people that were never gonna give me a chance anyway. They were never gonna give me credit no matter what I did. So, why am I trying to—I’m a people pleaser. I’ve always been a people pleaser. I feel like I do that and here I am trying to please the haters, in a sense. That’s sort of where I was at… Now, it’s got nothing to do with that. I’m saying I wanna finish him (Chan Sung Jung), not because of what people are saying, but because, obviously, that’s better for your career… So at the end of the day, I’m doing it for me because that’s going to put me in a better position.”
When pressed on when things started to turn a corner for him in how he handles critics, Volkanovski revealed that he only recently was able to tune out the noise.
“It only changed not long ago, I’ll be honest. I was still there through these lockdowns. And it was tough, you know what I mean? I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I was struggling with it, but I was. Now that I think about it, and the more that I talk about it, I’m like, ‘Man, why did you care so much about what people thought?’ It’s sad really.
“But I mean, this is a problem that a lot of people have; everyone has, I guess. But it’s something you can’t let get to you. You can’t let it get to you at all in life. People listening, this goes for everyone.”
Volkanovski made his UFC debut back in Nov. 2016 against Yusuke Kasuya, earning a second-round TKO finish. He also earned wins over the likes of José Aldo and Chad Mendes on his way to the featherweight throne.
Volkanovski has proven to be one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world with his ongoing run in the UFC. However, that hasn’t stopped him in the past from going through some of the obstacles that come with being a champion and a highly-touted figure in the sport.
What are your thoughts on Alexander Volkanovski as a champion?