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Current UFC featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski, has had a pretty unusual road to the top of the mixed martial arts world. After winning a national title in Greco-Roman wrestling at 12-years old, the Australian fighter decided to give up the sport and take up rugby league instead.
In between playing semi-professional rugby league for the Warilla Gorillas in the South Coast Rugby League, Volkanovski also worked as a concreter to pay the bills. “I played rugby league, I probably played for about 10 years I think, and I wrestled before then,” Volkanovski told MMA Fighting.
“I did about a year of wrestling, and I think I got a bit tired of the tights, so I started to play football with the mates. I used to be a front rower, the big guys up front. I used to be 97 kilograms, which is like 210 pounds, or something like that (213 to be exact).
Then at 23-years old, Volkanovski quit rugby to pursue MMA instead. With his Greco-Roman wrestling background and as a lifelong MMA fan, he quickly started to pile up the wins, amassing a 13-1 record before signing to the UFC.
“I was almost at breaking point a week before I got that contract, I was going to go back to concreting,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald. “That weekend I get my major sponsor, which was huge, and I end up getting my UFC contract the weekend after that. I went from the lowest point in my career to the highest in just a week.”
Since then, the featherweight champion embarked on a winning streak that would be seen as legendary — that is, if Volkanovski had a bigger mouth to go along with his punches — beating Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo and Max Holloway in back-to-back fights. But instead of going down the Conor McGregor route, the Australian, like his countryman Robert Whittaker, prefers to let his fists do the talking.
It’s about eating right, hard-work, discipline, all the values you want the younger generation to live by. It’s something I’m very proud of as well. You know, people are always asking, ‘What’s your brand?’ and, ‘What are you all about?’ Then you get other people saying, ‘You need to do what Connor McGregor does’. But that’s not me. That’s not who I am. I’m not going to talk trash and build off the bad boy image. I pride myself on being a family man. I pride myself on being respectful and hardworking. That’s just me.One On One With Alexander Volkanovski: Get To Know The Old-School Qualities Behind Our Latest UFC Champion | GQ
Alexander Volkanovski’s training routine & diet
For his training, Volkanovski splits his time between two gyms — Freestyle Fighting Gym based in his hometown of Windang and City Kickboxing in Auckland, which has UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and UFC lightweight contender Dan Hooker. He’s also spent time at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket, no doubt picking up some leg kick expertise to beat Aldo and Holloway.
Speaking with CMBT Nutrition, the Australian champ described his training routine when he doesn’t have a fight scheduled, emphasising the fact that he wants to stay fit all year round but doesn’t want to peak too soon.
“I train all year round to stay fit, but I don’t want to be at my peak all year round – I like to peak one or two weeks before my fight,” he explained. “I always want to be able to step it up as I get closer to the fight, so I want to stay in good shape and not far off where I want to be, but I never want to be at my peak until it’s time.”
In the interview, Volkanovski described a typical training day, out of fight camp:
I still have a full schedule when I don’t have a fight coming up. I’ll do anywhere from 2 – 4 sessions a day. Some days I’ll do strength in the morning and then I’ll do the normal training schedule we have at the gym. But, again, the pressure’s off so there’s no really hard work (like spiders and VO2 Maxes). We still want to stay sharp but we don’t want to be breaking ourselves too early, especially when we’re out of camp.Q&A WITH ALEX VOLKANOVSKI: OFF CAMP TRAINING AND NUTRITION ROUTINES OF THE UFC CHAMP | CMBT
For his strength & conditioning, Volkanovski does a lot of work with weights, including trap-bar deadlifts, explosive squat jumps with a medicine ball and barbell hip thrusts, according to Men’s Health.
There’s also sparring twice a week — on Mondays and Saturdays — although Volkanovski doesn’t believe in hard sparring as an effective way to improve a fighter’s technique. “You want to be able to try new moves and if you’re going 100% you can’t take much risk because someone’s trying to knock your head off,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense. You want to be able to evolve and sparring 100% all the time is going to make it very difficult to do that.”
When it comes to his diet, Volkanovski has done most of the hard work already, getting his weight from heavyweight levels down closer to 145 pounds. “I don’t actually have numbers that I try and hit,” he said. “I try and stay pretty healthy. Again, there’s no pressure so I’ve got a bit of freedom.”
In an interview with Jordan Sullivan, the dietitian for Volkanovski and UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, it was revealed that the featherweight champion will typically eat between 2500 to 3500 calories each day spread out over seven meals plus a snack.
“I lose a lot of the weight during the week and I try not to go too crazy on the weekends but I still tend to do that sometimes, especially when I don’t have a fight coming up. On the Monday, eating here and there turns into a few days but in saying that, that’s the beauty of no pressure and no fight coming up! I don’t have to stress about it because I can take the weight off pretty easily.”
A lot of times we’re being portrayed as thugs, but anyone who really knows us understand that we work hard, we diet hard, the commitment is full on. But alot of people don’t see that. Some of the nicest and most respectful people I’ve ever met are in this sport. I truly believe that, and there’s a lot of fighters that live by that. You know, martial arts is all about respect and discipline and it’s always been about that. But again, people are starting to forget that, people are missing that, and this is where I believe I can help and it’s good for our sport.One On One With Alexander Volkanovski: Get To Know The Old-School Qualities Behind Our Latest UFC Champion | GQ
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