Alexander Volkanovski’s emotional UFC 294 post-fight comments caught a lot of people by surprise.
Following a disappointing KO loss at UFC 294 on Saturday, Volkanovski (26-3 MMA, 13-2 UFC) had an held back tears in front of reporters as he vented about mental health struggles, saying he was “doing my head in” in the months prior to taking the short-notice rematch against Islam Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC).
The UFC featherweight champion is known for his dominant reign at 145 pounds and his high-level skills, but he’s also known for being a happy, positive and charismatic figure, which is why many didn’t see Volkanovski’s comments coming after UFC 294.
Alexander Volkanovski held back tears reflecting on his decision to fight Islam Makhachev on short notice at #UFC294 and why he felt he had to do it once he was offered. 😔
— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) October 21, 2023
On Tuesday, Volkanovski took to his YouTube channel to elaborate on what he’s been going through and assured fans that he’s OK.
“So straight after the fight, I did the post-fight press conference and I want people to understand that, yeah, there was a raw emotion seen, but I want everyone to know that I’m OK,” Volkanovski explained. “I think that people have to remember that I did just come off getting tagged, knocked out. I lost. I knew that legacy wise and all that, all those things start coming into play, so that was obviously hurting me.”
Volkanovski said he had a lot of pressure built up given the recent birth of his daughter and arm surgery after UFC 290 that slowed down his training. Taking the fight against Makhachev was almost a return to normalcy for him.
The 35-year-old Volkanovski knows he doesn’t have much time left in his career, which is why the pressure got to him.
“Sometimes you put a lot of pressure on yourself because I know I need to make the most of me in my prime because my days are numbered,” Volkanovski said. “Me and my wife, we’re great. We have a beautiful family, and we’re good. I want everyone to know that. I don’t want everyone thinking that it’s not like that.
“It’s just me trying to deal with being a high-performance athlete and me not being able to fulfill that side of things, especially the last three months. When I’m in camp, there’s a specific direction, and it’s easy when it comes to that, and I’m still very present at home. I’m probably even a better dad when I’m in camp. I’m ticking all the boxes, but it was harder to do that the last few weeks when everything was happening. I want everyone to know that it was just more of the timing, and that’s why you see me a little more vulnerable in the press conference after getting knocked out and having that sort of situation.”
Volkanovski said many fighters reached out to him, not only in support but also asking him for advice. He doesn’t regret breaking down and wants to normalize these types of conversations in hopes to lessen stigma around mental health issues.
“One thing that I do want to say, even though I’m fine, I’m sort of glad you guys got to see that raw emotion, and we do touch on the mental side of things when it comes to everyone, not just fighters and athletes, anyone in general.” Volkanovski said. “I think that it’s good for awareness. I think these are conversations people should be having.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 294.