Alexander Volkanovski’s stunning transformation from 200lbs Rugby player to 145 lbs UFC Champion

Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski is on a high right now.

The Australian cemented himself as one of the best featherweight champions in UFC history. Volkanovski defended his title for the third time in the main event of UFC 273 and is now tied with Max Holloway for the second-most title defenses in UFC’s Featherweight history (behind José Aldo with seven).

The champ is on an incredible win streak and has not lost in nearly a decade.

With such an incredible career in MMA, people might think that the 33-year-old fighter grew up around combat sports, but that would not be the case.

In fact, Volkanovski had quite a journey before reaching MMA.

Born to a Macedonian father and a Greek Mother, Alexander Volkanovski was born in Wollongong, New South Wales in Australia.

Volkanovski started i Greco-roman wrestling. There, he won the national championship at age 12. At age 14, Volkanovski would completely abandon wrestling to focus on Rugby. He played semi-professionally Rugby until he was 23 years old.

One thing to note is that Alexander was very different looking at the time. The current 145lbs champion used to weigh 215lbs as a rugby player.

Volkanovski began training MMA to keep in shape during the rugby off-season in Australia.

When his rugby career seemed to be going nowhere, Alexander decided to transition and become a professional mixed martial artist.

After four amateur victories, the Australian made his professional debut on May 19, 2012.

Initially Volkanovski competed as a welterweight.

Despite the massive size disadvantage, Volkanovski managed to win three in the division before suffering his first and only loss in his career.

Volkanovski was viciously knocked out by the Welterweight Corey Nelson after a head kick.

Following that knockout loss, Volkanovski would only fight one more time as a Welterweight before moving down several weight classes.

After dropping weight, Volkanovski won several titles at lightweight and featherweight. After 10 consecutive victories, the Australian would finally make his UFC debut.

Volkanovski made his UFC debut against Yusuke Kasuya at lightweight. The fight was a one-sided beatdown in favor of the Australian, who TKO’d Kasuya in the second round of the fight with ground and pound.

Following his debut, Volkanovski had impressive performances against then-undefeated Jeremy Kennedy and Darren Elkins, but it was the fight against Chad Mendes that turned out to be the turning point of his career.

Largely unknown by MMA’s casual fans, Volkanovski faced Chad Mendes, a two-time title challenger that was considered for several years to be the best featherweight on the planet not named Jose Aldo.

The fight became one of the best featherweight fights of all time. Volkanovski and Mendes traded strikes and nearly knocked each other out several times during the fight. At the end of the second round, the Australian knocked out Mendes with a right hand.

After that stellar performance, Volkanovski cemented himself as a top contender in Featherweight.

He would later beat the division’s legend Jose Aldo by unanimous decision so he could finally challenge Max Holloway for the belt.

And that’s the story of one of MMA’s most dominant champions today.

Volkanovski is ranked the number-2 ranked fighter in the pound for pound rankings, and is expected to face Max Holloway to close the trilogy after he beat Holloway two times in the past.