Alex Volkanovski’s transformation from 214-pound rugby player to UFC champion

Volkanovski defends his UFC featherweight title this Saturday against The Korean Zombie, but the Australian once weighed much more than 145 pounds

It’s hard to believe fighting was once just a way for Alex Volkanovski to stay fit during his days as a 214-pound rugby league player.

UFC featherweight champion Volkanovski makes his third title defense tonight when he fights the Korean Zombie at UFC 273. The Aussie’s rise through the UFC has been nothing short of remarkable. as he remains undefeated in the promotion.

The Aussie is the pound-for-pound No. 3 ranked fighter in the UFC and has one of the most diverse skill sets of any champion in the promotion. A fight with Zombie is Volkanovski’s chance to add another MMA legend to his winning list, but let’s first look at how the 33-year-old got to this position…


Volkanovski was born to a Macedonian father and a Greek mother, which is why he would later adopt the nickname “Alexander the Great” for his fighting career in reference to the ancient Greek king.

His introduction to the sport was atypical in Australia as he discovered a passion for wrestling instead of the country’s national sport, rugby. As a teenager, he won a national schools wrestling competition, but then gave up wrestling to focus on rugby league.

After completing his studies, Volkanovski worked as a concreter and continued to play rugby league. He was one of the first rowers for semi-professional side Warilla Gorillas and played a vital role in their Premiership title win in 2011, receiving the Man of the Match award in their final game of the season. .

Towards the end of his rugby league career, Volkanovski started training MMA as he told Joe Rogan’s podcast: “I started training MMA just to stay in shape while I was playing rugby league, that’s when I weighed 214 lbs. I’m 5’6″ on a good day. I was much taller and wanted to stay in shape during pre-season, that’s why I started. Since then, I love him.”

Alex Volkanovski once weighed 214 pounds during his rugby days


UFC on BT Sport/Twitter)

Give up rugby league

Volkanovski decided to end his rugby league days on a high and called it quits after winning the league title with the Warilla Gorilla. “My last year of rugby league, we won the competition and it was a good year to finish,” he continued. “I had a couple of fights while I was playing rugby league and I kept concrete, there was a lot going on. It was pretty comprehensive.

The strenuous routine of rugby, fighting and concreting caught up with Volkanovski, so he decided to focus entirely on MMA. He shredded thirty pounds and competed at middleweight as he had four amateur fights under his belt before turning professional.

Volkanovski competed in regional MMA shows at 170lbs when he turned professional in 2012. He won titles in the Cage Conquest and Roshambo promotions but suffered the first and only loss of his career in the Australian promotion AFC.

He continued to lose weight during his pro debut and competed steadily at 145lbs beginning in 2014. After putting together a 10-fight winning streak and winning more regional titles, it’s no surprise that the UFC hit in 2016.

Who wins this Saturday – Alex Volkanovski or The Korean Zombie? Let us know in the comments section below

Presentation of the UFC

After winning his first two UFC bouts in impressive fashion, Volkanovski claimed gold following his third victory in the promotion against New Zealander Shane Young. In Young’s corner was City Kickboxing trainer Eugene Bareman, who would soon become Volkanovski’s head trainer.

Bareman was impressed with Volkanovski’s skills and the fighter then committed the cardinal sin of moving from Australia to New Zealand. The City Kickboxing Gym was already home to several talented pros such as Israel Adesanya and Dan Hooker, both of whom helped improve Volkanovski’s skills.

“Training with full time fighters really helps, back home I can’t really get it on a day to day basis. City Kickboxing has that with really top level fighters so it’s just an unreal thing that we have here,” Volkanovski said. .

Volkanovski has reached new heights in his fighting career with the help of City Kickboxing. ‘The Great’ won fights against featherweight legends in Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo to set up the first UFC title shot of his career.

Alex Volkanovski is undefeated in the UFC



Win the UFC title

Max Holloway stood in the way of Volkanovski’s title hopes. The featherweight champion joined the UFC at the age of 21 and was on a 14-fight unbeaten streak at 145 pounds heading into his fourth title defense against Volkanovski at UFC 245 in 2019.

Holloway had a five-inch advantage over Volkanovski but the Aussie’s game plan worked exceptionally as he found a way to work inside against the champion. After five close rounds, Volkanovski won a unanimous decision and was UFC champion after less than a decade of training in MMA.

Volkanovski has since defended his belt twice, overtaking Holloway again in a rematch and fending off talented grappler Brian Ortega last September. The 33-year-old was scheduled to face Holloway for the third time at UFC 273 this Saturday, but an injury forced Zombie to replace him at the event.

Zombie is fighting for a UFC title for the first time in nine years after falling short to Aldo in 2013. The 35-year-old is a huge underdog against champion Volkanovski, but the Aussie will not count the crafty veteran. .

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