Alex Volkanovski is one of the more wholesome figures in MMA, which is another way you can’t help but feel bad for him.
Volkanovski found himself in tears after a crushing knockout loss to Islam Makhachev at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi. While Makhachev’s performance was indeed remarkable, it was Volkanovski’s emotional interview that drew significant attention.
The event came to a sudden and vicious end in the first round, with Makhachev delivering a devastating head kick followed by punches. This marked only the second time in Volkanovski’s career that he had been stopped, and the visible pain and emotional turmoil were evident in his interview.
Speaking to the press after the bout, Volkanovski couldn’t hold back his emotions as he shared the intense pressure he had been dealing with in the lead-up to the fight. He candidly expressed the mental battles he had been going through, revealing that not being in a training camp had taken a toll on his mental well-being.
“It really is hard for athletes,” Volkanovski stated, his voice trembling with emotion. “I never thought I’d struggle with it but for some reason when I wasn’t fighting or in camp… It (not being in camp) was just doing my head in.”
At one point, Volkanovski had to pause, overcome with emotion, saying, “F**k, sorry,” as he tried to regain his composure. He went on to explain that he was not training as much as he should have been, but he felt compelled to take the opportunity to fight. “I thought it would be… I was telling myself it was meant to be.”
The featherweight champion continued to open up, stating, “I was doing my head in not fighting. I think you just need to keep busy. So I asked the UFC to keep me busy. I need to be in camp or I’m gonna do my head in. I’ll leave it at that.”
While Volkanovski suggested that it may have been “silly” of him to accept the fight on just 11 days’ notice, he didn’t take anything away from his opponent, Islam Makhachev. He also highlighted that his decision to speak about mental health issues was about much more than just money.
It’s important to recognize that even elite athletes like Volkanovski can face mental health challenges, and opening up about these struggles is a positive step towards raising awareness and understanding. Mental health concerns can affect anyone, regardless of their status or achievements.