Alexander Volkanovski says he cannot yet be regarded as the greatest featherweight champion of all-time - a list in which he ranks former champion Conor McGregor at the bottom.
Unbeaten in his past 20 professional bouts, the Australian defends the divisional crown for a third time this weekend at UFC 273, when he faces “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung at the top of the bill in Jacksonville, Florida.
Volkanovski, whose pro record reads 23-1, has won all 10 of his fights in the UFC, including against former champions Jose Aldo and Max Holloway. He defeated the latter twice, in fact, with the rematch coming at UFC 251 during the inaugural Fight Island in Abu Dhabi in July 2020. It represents the sort of resume that has many proclaiming Volkanovski already as the best to ever do it at featherweight.
However, speaking to media in Florida on Wednesday, the current champion said Aldo remains the division’s all-time lead light. The Brazilian reigned supreme for almost five years before his title run was ended famously by McGregor in 16 seconds at UFC 194 in 2015.
“I believe I’ve still got more work to do,” Volkanovski said. “I give Aldo the respect. To be champion for as long as he was, he’s incredible. No matter the opposition that I’m facing like himself, Max and that, I’m fighting absolute killers, it’s pretty clear.
“But at the same time, to be champion that long - there’s going to be days you don’t show up, bad weight cuts, injuries, you name it. We’ve all done it and it’s a nightmare to not be on, on a day where you’ve got to go out there and defend your belt. For him to be a champion for so long, that’s saying something.”
Although McGregor’s victory against Aldo is recognised still as one of the most memorable moments in UFC history, Volkanovski said the Irishman should not be considered among the greatest to have competed at featherweight.
“You need defences, that’s the thing,” Volkanovski said. “I’m going to give him respect. The dude can fight. He made some bad decisions and all that type of stuff, but he can fight. To take out Aldo in Aldo’s prime, that’s saying something as well. Aldo is still showing he’s still in his prime - he doesn’t age.
“But again, I feel like I’ve definitely done a lot more than him, so out of all the champions, I’d say he would have to be at the bottom of the list. He ain’t going to like that, but whatever.”
On whether he wishes to eventually meet McGregor in the octagon, potentially at another weight - the Dublin-born star is the only former UFC featherweight champion he has yet to fight – Volkanovski said: “Everyone’s going to throw him out there cause it’s the money fight and all that type of circus around it. But again, he’s held this belt in my division as well. I’ve taken out the other guys; I haven’t had a chance to do him.
“Obviously, that’s something incredible, but he ain’t making featherweight. If I’ve got to move up to take that title I would, so that’s something that intrigues me. When you talk money, hype, all that type of stuff but not just that, someone else that’s held this [title] and I want to take them all out. The legends of my division, I want to take them.”
That said, Volkanovski is not looking past Jung this Sunday.
“This is a legacy fight,” he said. “I’ve taken out a lot of the legends, and I want to keep taking out legends. He’s definitely one of them. He’s earned this spot. He definitely has.”