Alex Volkanovski stayed in the U.S. for an extra week after he successfully defended his UFC featherweight title by stopping “The Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung on April 9, in Jacksonville, Florida.
Volkanovski is one of the greatest fighters in the world, but isn’t yet a household name despite extraordinary performances since joining the UFC in 2016. So after the fourth-round KO of Jung, Volkanovski traveled the country and did media, hoping to raise his profile.
It’s a smart move, obviously, but just one of several smart moves that Volkanovski has chosen. The most significant, of course, is defending his championship regularly and seeking out the best opposition.
On Saturday, it can’t get much tougher for him as he meets former champion Max Holloway in the co-main event of UFC 276 at T-Mobile Arena. Volkanovski has scored two decision victories over Holloway in fights that were as sensational to watch as they were tense and close.
If he wins on Saturday, UFC president Dana White has already given him his blessing to move up to lightweight if he chooses and chase that belt.
For Volkanovski, he’s only taking fights that increase his profile and pay him more.
“Man, this is still a legacy fight, 100 percent,” Volkanovski said of the trilogy bout with Holloway. “He’s gone out and shown he’s still the No. 1 guy. People are saying he’s gotten better [since we last fought]. It’s definitely a legacy fight and it’s why we wanted this fight, too. If I felt like this wouldn’t put me in a better position than before, well, you wouldn’t take it. But it does.
“You all want to see it. You all want to see the trilogy. So that’s a legacy fight; people want to see it. I was open to it and I wanted it as well. If that’s going to move me forward, let’s do it.”
Volkanovski’s story is remarkable. He’s a former rugby player who competed at 230 pounds despite standing only 5-foot-6. Even as a featherweight, most of his opponents are taller than he is. Holloway is 5-foot-11.
But Volkanovski made himself into one of the world’s elite fighters through sheer determination. He’s rung off 21 consecutive wins and is 24-1 in his MMA career, including 11-0 in the UFC.
He’s ranked second pound-for-pound by the UFC and third by Yahoo Sports and is one of those athletes who commands respect throughout all phases of the business.
But challenging for record-long winning streaks means little to him. He’s only focused on the here-and-now and what’s gone on in the past doesn’t impact him.
If he defeats Holloway again — and he’s a -200 favorite at BetMGM to do so — he’ll open plenty of options for himself. But both of the first two fights, particularly the rematch, were close and there was some sentiment that Holloway won.
White said that’s why Volkanovski-Holloway III also had to happen despite Volkanovski taking the first two bouts. There hasn’t been a definitive winner, and they’re so close and evenly matched, there never may be.
“This is kind of unheard of in the fight business,” White said. “Once a guy is up two fights, it’s kind of a wrap. But these fights have been so razor-thin close and so competitive, people want to see it again. And what’s crazy is for all the things that Alexander has done in his career as a champion, he still has to get this Holloway monkey off his back.”
That’s what Volkanovski has planned and he’s spoken of going for a finish even though Holloway has one of the best chins in the game and has never been dropped in the UFC.
He expects the third bout to be competitive and entertaining though he concedes it will likely differ from the first two.
“Obviously, you know there’s going to be different strategies in terms of how we approach it,” Volkanovski said. “There’s going to be things where we are going to want to know what he’s going to do, but at the same time, my style and with where I’m at right now will definitely be enough to deal with whatever challenges come forward. I’m expecting that Max may even switch things up.
“I’m expecting that chess match and that strategy and all of that type of stuff, so I need to be on. I will be on on fight night.”
If he wins this, it will put his name indelibly into the history books. It would mean he’d be 12-0 in the UFC with three wins over Holloway, as well as one each over Jose Aldo, Brian Ortega, Jung and Chad Mendes.
He would be without question the greatest featherweight in UFC history with a win Saturday and would be then climbing the ranks of the greatest fighters in the sport’s history, period.
Volkanovski is fully without pretense and doesn’t see himself as much of a big deal. He’s just Dad trying to make a good life for his young family.
If he doesn’t get the recognition after Saturday, it probably won’t ever come.
But that’s OK because in this case, numbers don’t lie.
And the numbers say that Alexander Volkanovski is one of the best to ever do it in MMA.
This story originally Appeared on Yahoo!