Many fighters fall in love with MMA after getting beat up on their first day of coaching, consumed by desirous to be taught no matter magic their opponent used to dominate them.

The story of UFC featherweight Alexander “The Nice” Volkanovski, who fights Shane Younger this Saturday (Sunday native time) at UFC Battle Night time: Werdum vs Tybura on the Qudos Financial institution Enviornment in Sydney, is the other.

Earlier than he even stepped foot in what would later turn into his residence gymnasium, Volkanovski was focused as recent meat.

Unusual, contemplating that this was in 2011, when he was nonetheless a 213-pound rugby league participant. Unbeknownst to his taunter, he’d additionally received a nationwide championship in wrestling as a teen, though he’d stop the game round ten years previous to play rugby.

“I keep in mind strolling in, this was the primary time I ever went into my coach’s gymnasium. And I used to be going to do it extra for pre-season (for rugby). I keep in mind there was a man at my college, he was a bit older, he appears to be like at me and goes ‘What are you doing right here? You’re going to get smashed.’ That is earlier than I even walked within the door. I form of brushed it off, I may’ve rotated and by no means executed an MMA combat or educated MMA in any respect, however I didn’t actually care and simply went in.”

However when Volkanovski turned up for his firstclass on the Freestyle Combating Gymnasium the subsequent day, he wasn’t the one being smashed.

Whereas that proved an excessive amount of for his opponent’s ego, it signaled to Volkanovski that he had a future in his new sport.

“The subsequent day, that very same man was there, and I keep in mind we had grappling. And this was the primary grapple I’d ever executed, and he’d been doing it for a short while, he may need even been a blue belt,” mentioned the native of Shellharbour, New South Wales, Australia. “And I simply keep in mind completely smashing him, I used to be throughout him (laughs). And he by no means set foot in our gymnasium ever once more. And that’s form of the place I assumed this ain’t too dangerous, I’m taking out these guys that assume they’re good and that was in all probability the place I used to be like, I feel I’ve acquired it.”

Then working as a concreter within the household enterprise and incomes a modest earnings as a primary grade rugby league participant for the Warilla Gorillas on the New South Wales South Coast, Volkanovski quickly needed to decide between his two sports activities.

The up and comer, who made his skilled MMA debut in 2012, figured he’d gone so far as he may in rugby. However Volkanovski, who would quickly remodel right into a smothering grappler with brutal ground-and-pound, knew he had what it took to turn into an elite MMA fighter.

“(After I performed rugby) I used to be a 97 kilogram front-rower. They name them ‘props,’ one of many guys that simply runs straight at folks just about. And I was fairly good at it. I used to be a (legendary Australian rugby participant) Mick Cronin medalist, and Man of the Match within the final 12 months of soccer, and I had a few fights that 12 months,” he mentioned. “That’s once I determined, we’re ending in an excellent 12 months, we received the ultimate, I scored a strive, received Man of the Match, and I made the choice to go to MMA and take MMA significantly and it was in all probability top-of-the-line choices I ever made.”

However for the 99.9% of fighters who haven’t made the elite degree, how significantly you are taking MMA is inversely associated to your monetary safety.

For Volkanovski, married and a father of two daughters aged two years and eight weeks outdated, money circulate took a brief again seat as he tried to crack the UFC roster.

Issues are higher now, although placing meals on the desk stays a key motivator for him.

“Particularly earlier than the UFC it was a lot tougher, I used to be chasing the dream. I actually needed to get into the UFC and we form of put life on maintain till that occurred. I used to be residing at my mum’s home after which I lastly acquired that UFC contract,” mentioned Volkanovski. “And it’s serving to loads, it’s positively loads higher, however on the identical time, household’s not low-cost so I must combat frequently, and I need to shoot by these ranks so I can begin making some severe cash.”

After over 4 years spent amassing a 13-1 file on the Australian circuit, and a dogged #SignVolkanovski social media marketing campaign, Volkanovski’s huge break lastly got here: a debut in opposition to Yusuke Kasuya at UFC Melbourne: Brunson vs Whittaker on November 27, 2016.

After some backwards and forwards grappling exchanges within the first, Volkanovski’s Japanese opponent went face down for a leg lock within the second spherical. The ill-fated submission try gave the Australian the opening he wanted, as he landed vicious proper arms on his opponent for a TKO stoppage.

Volkanovski adopted up the victory with a win over Mizuto Hirota at UFC Battle Night time: Lewis vs Hunt in June of this 12 months,Alexander Volkanovski celebrates after defeating Mizuto Hirota in their featherweight bout at Fight Night Auckland nailing his sturdy opponent with exhausting pictures standing and on the mat en path to a unanimous determination.

For Volkanovski, his UFC success is made sweeter by the very fact he got here agonizingly near an Octagon debut earlier in his profession.

“(Former UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva needed me to combat on the UFC Sydney card, and a administration firm mentioned I used to be contracted to a different combat and robbed me of that chance. That was my foot within the door, and like I mentioned, I’ve put my household on maintain simply so I may make the UFC and that was my likelihood,” he mentioned. “It simply acquired taken proper from me by a administration firm, making an attempt to get one among their very own guys in as a result of I wasn’t contracted to them. They made it as if I used to be contracted to this combat I used to be doing which I wasn’t, and I at all times had a UFC clause the place if the UFC known as me, I may combat for the UFC, and everybody knew that.”

However Volkanovski has skilled sufficient misfortune in his skilled profession to know that coaching your self to see the silver lining is the one technique to keep sane as an MMA fighter.

“That was an enormous blow, however on the identical time I stayed optimistic. I advised myself perhaps that was a nasty matchup for me, perhaps I may’ve misplaced after which acquired kicked out. I used to be simply pondering as positively in addition to I may simply to get me by, and that’s actually helped me. Each time there was a adverse I attempted to have a look at a optimistic by it, and simply say it’s meant to be, perhaps that is occurring for a motive and simply transfer on.”

The curveballs don’t finish when a fighter makes the UFC. As soon as once more, the Gods of MMA have put Volkanovski’s philosophy of staying optimistic to the check forward of Saturday’s combat.

Volkanovski was initially set to combat Jeremy Kennedy on Saturday’s card, till damage sidelined the Canadian in early October. Kennedy was then changed by explosive finisher Humberto Bandenay till the Peruvian was pressured to withdraw on account of an damage of his personal lower than per week in the past.

Now, in UFC debutant “Sugar” Shane Younger, Volkanovski faces a comparatively unknown opponent with a mixture of finishes by KO and submission to his title.

At simply 24 years outdated, Younger made his skilled MMA debut in 2012, and has a file of 11-Three in MMA. The 2 will combat at a catchweight of 150 kilos, and regardless of the revolving door of opponents, Volkanovski’s objective will stay the identical.

“I’m going to go on the market and do my factor. As I mentioned, I must get these wins, shoot by these ranks and make some cash.”

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