Alexander Volkanovski is exactly one month into his reign as the UFC featherweight champion. While he’s still healing up from an arm injury sustained in his title-winning battle, a unanimous decision win over long-time champ Max Holloway, he’s beginning to look ahead to his first challenge as champion.
The options for that challenge are plentiful.
The upper end of the UFC featherweight rankings is populated by killers like Holloway, Zabit Magomedsharipov, Yair Rodriguez, Brian Ortega, and “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, all of whom are eager for the opportunity to usurp Volkanovski’s throne.
With a cast still on his arm, Volkanovski isn’t sure which of these fighters deserves the first crack at his belt, and encourages them to fight amongst each other to assert themselves. That includes the former champ Holloway, who many fans feel is worthy of an immediate shot at redemption.
“You’ve got guys like Zombie and Zabit,” Volkanovski told BJPENN.com. “I haven’t heard much from Brian Ortega, but these are the names that are going to get thrown around. Even Yair Rodriguez. No one is the clear No. 1.
“If say, Zombie and Zabit fought, or Zombie and Yair fought again, whatever it is, [if they] get that clear No. 1 contender spot, it’s going to be hard for even Max to ask for a rematch if you go an do something like that,” he added. “You can really go out there and take that No.1 spot, and then there’s no questions. You’ve taken the opportunity away from everyone and you’ve earned it.”
Although none of the aforementioned men have established themselves as the irrefutable top contender, the Korean Zombie seems to be one of the more popular choices for the next featherweight title shot. Volkanovski believes that’s due, in part, to the Korean fighting more recently than his rivals, having knocked out Frankie Edgar in late December.
“He’s the new flavor,” Volkanovski said of the Korean Zombie. “He’s the hot topic of the month cause he just won. It wasn’t long ago that Zabit was the clear next guy for the fight when he won. That’s what happens. Someone else goes and fights then they’re the No. 1.”
After beating Edgar, the Korean Zombie was quick to call for a featherweight title shot, and even suggested that he would finish Volkanovski early if they shared the cage.
Volkanovski, of course, has a very different prediction for their prospective meeting.
“Matchup-wise, you come rushing at me like [you did against Edgar], you come swinging at me like that, I ain’t gonna be there or I’m going to put one right on your chin,” he said of a potential fight with the undead Korean. “You come at me with them arms down like that, swinging from the f**king hip like that, I’ll be putting you to sleep. I don’t mean this in a bad way. They’re all obviously going to think they can beat me. Good on ’em. They should think that. They have to believe in themselves, but it ain’t gonna be that easy. Let me tell you that.”
Who do you think Alexander Volkanovski should in his first title defense?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 1/13/2020.