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When Alexander Volkanovski arrived in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2016, few hailed him as a future contender. His rise to power was equal parts steady and stunning.
Volkanovski entered the organization on a 10-fight winning streak, rattled off seven more victories inside the Octagon and then captured the undisputed featherweight championship with a five-round unanimous verdict over Max Holloway in the UFC 245 co-main event on Dec. 14. So long as the COVID-19 pandemic does not interfere, the City Kickboxing-trained Aussie will make his first title defense in a rematch with Holloway at UFC 251 on June 6 in Perth, Australia.
Ahead of Volkanovski’s scheduled second encounter with Holloway, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. His athletic exploits extend beyond the cage.
Prior to his transition to mixed martial arts, Volkanovski played semi-pro rugby with the Warilla Gorillas of the South Coast Rugby League in New South Wales, Australia. In 2010, became the fifth man in team history to win the Michael Cronin Medal, awarded annually to the league’s best player. A year later and in his final season, Volkanovski led the Gorillas to their eighth championship.
2. Adversity has only visited him once.
Volkanovski made his professional MMA debut on May 19, 2012 at a Revolution Promotions event and won his first three fights before Corey Nelson stopped him with a third-round head kick and follow-up punches under the Australian Fighting Championship banner. He has not lost in 18 appearances since.
3. He belongs to an exclusive club.
When Volkanvoski outpointed Holloway to claim the UFC featherweight championship, he joined some rarified air. Only four men have held the undisputed 145-pound title: Volkanovski, Holloway, Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo (twice).
4. The championship life suits him.
Before he linked arms with the UFC, Volkanovski won titles in five other organizations: Southern Fight Promotions, Roshambo MMA, Australian Fighting Championship, Pacific Xtreme Combat and Wollongong Wars.
5. Opponents often meet violent ends.
Volkanovski has delivered more than half (11) of his 21 career victories by knockout or technical knockout, seven of them inside one round. He scored his quickest finish at Australia Fighting Championship 13, where he put away James Bishop with punches in 99 seconds on June 14, 2015.
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