- Alexander Volkanovski and Jose Aldo clash this Saturday at UFC 237 in a must-see featherweight fight, but both fighters also have their eyes on what would come next with a win.
The most overlooked storyline of this Saturday’s UFC 237 card in Brazil is the featherweight fight pitting Alexander Volkanovski against Jose Aldo.
And a major part of this story centers around what happens next. Both Volkanovski and Aldo have their sights set on Max Holloway’s featherweight title. Both need a win to have a shot.
“I definitely want that belt,” said Volkanovski. “That would look very good on my shoulder, and very good on the wall at the gym, too. This is definitely a No. 1 contender fight. A title match is exactly what’s next for me. When I go out there and do what I plan on doing in Aldo’s home country, then it becomes a no-brainer.”
Volkanovski (19-1) is undefeated in the UFC and coming off a “Fight of the Night” TKO victory over Chad Mendes this past December, but he remains a slight underdog against Aldo.
Aldo (28-4) has dominated any and all competition not named Max Holloway or Conor McGregor in the UFC. He quickly dismissed the notion that Volkanovski is a serious threat for the featherweight title, which is a title he has worn twice.
“Volkanovski is thinking about something that is never going to happen, so go ahead and think about that all you want,” said Aldo, speaking through a translator. “It doesn’t bother me because I’m not going to let it happen.”
There are only two years separating the fighters, but there is no doubt that the 30-year-old Volkanovski is much better equipped, in terms of stamina and endurance, to flourish in a 15-minute fight.
“Jose is very explosive and very dangerous, but against my pressure and patience, he won’t be able to keep up,” said Volkanovski. “He’s definitely going to wear himself out. I can go for days. I just need to remain smart while I’m fighting and make him make the wrong decisions.”
Aldo, 32, did not disagree that stamina plays into Volkanovski’s favor.
“I respect Alexander, I’m taking him seriously,” said Aldo. “That’s exactly why I’m knocking him out quickly in the first round.”
The international affair features Aldo, who is proud to represent his homeland of Brazil, and the Australian born Volkanovski.
Along with Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya, there is an influx of fighters from Australia and New Zealand–which is a big focus area for UFC–and Volkanovski is helping to lead the way with an extremely exciting style of fighting.
“We’re all caught up to the world, we’re all very high level, and everyone is starting to see that,” said Volkanovski. “It’s perfect to see what’s happening on that side of the world. You look at Izzy and Robert Whittaker opening the world’s eyes, and I’m glad to be part of that.”
With the fight taking place in Rio de Janeiro’s Jeunesse Arena, Aldo has a rare home–field (or Octagon?) advantage.
“It’s much sweeter to win in Brazil,” said Aldo. “It feels really good fighting here in front of my friends and family. It’s not like I don’t get love from the fans anywhere else in the world, but it’s a different flavor fighting here.”
Ultimately, opportunity is on the line in the fight between Volkanovski and Aldo.
With a win, Volkanovski adds yet another legitimate opponent to his long and distinguished list of victories, and all but cements his title shot against Holloway. For Aldo, who has heard talk that he has entered the back nine of his career, stepping into the cage on Saturday stands as a chance to prove he can go still compete at an elite level.
“I know I’m not at that part of my career,” said Aldo. “I want to retire at the top, like Georges St-Pierre. It doesn’t matter what people are saying, I know what I can do.”
Aldo represents a stepping stone for Volkanovski, who desperately seeks a shot at the featherweight championship. A convincing win on Saturday will help to take a step closer to fulfilling his destiny.
“I opened a lot of eyes with my last fight, but I’m still underrated,” said Volkanovski. “Now I’m ready to put on a show. Taking out Aldo in his hometown will definitely open the world’s eyes. I believe I’m a contender already, but after this fight, I’m going to erase all doubt that I’m going to take that belt off Max.
“I’m mentally and physically prepared for war. Even if the fight could only go a minute, I’m prepared for the hardest 15 minutes of my life. Obviously, Aldo is a legend of the sport and he’s still capable of great things, but this is my time.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.
What: UFC 237
When: Saturday. Early prelims begin at 6:15 p.m.; main card scheduled to start at 10 p.m. (All times ET.)
Where: Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
TV: Pay-per-view broadcast available exclusively on ESPN+. Early preliminary bouts on ESPN+, UFC Fight Pass (6:15-8 p.m.). Prelims on ESPN (8 p.m.).