LAS VEGAS – Despite not getting the finish he wanted, Alexander Volkanovski was happy he was able to entertain the masses on Saturday.
Volkanovski (23-1 MMA, 10-0 UFC) emerged victorious after an incredible fight against Brian Ortega (15-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) that earned “Fight of the Night” honors. The coaches of “The Ultimate Fighter 29” put on a classic featherweight title fight in the main event, and despite not getting the finish, the champ was satisfied with the result.
UFC 266 took place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card streamed on ESPN+ pay-per-view after prelims on ESPN News/ESPN+.
“I talked about getting the finish, and I wanted to get the finish, but at least it was a war, at least it was entertainment,” Volkanovski told MMA Junkie and other reporters at the post-fight news conference. “Straight after, I was like ‘F*ck, I didn’t get the finish,’ you know what I mean? But then you come out and everyone’s just absolutely buzzin’.”
The fight had its share of back-and-forth moments, which made for a fantastic battle. Volkanovski largely had success early on the feet, utilizing his quick footwork with feints to land punches. The gameplan was to give his opponent many different looks to make it a difficult challenge to solve.
Ortega landed a few clean strikes as well, but the scariest moment of the fight for the champion came in the third round when the challenger nearly pulled off the victory out of nowhere when he slapped on a very deep guillotine choke attempt.
“It was deep, it was ‘Oh f*ck, I’m about to lose the belt’ deep,” Volkanovski said about the choke. “That was as deep as it can get, no sh*t. As deep as it could get. I remember I was making f*cking weird noises.”
Ultimately, Volkanovski escaped the very deep choke attempt and regained his composure to finish out the round and the fight strong in order to retain his title. Although the two men had their differences in the lead-up to the fight and during the filming of TUF 29, Volkanovksi says he has nothing but respect for Ortega after spending 25 minutes inside the cage with him.
“I thought I was going to break him,” Volkanovski said. “I thought he was broken after the third round, but the ref decided to give him a minute to ask him questions. He wasn’t answering them right, I was looking. … He couldn’t even see where he was going. I was like, ‘That’s it, it’s over.’ I go in there, start putting pressure, and he’s firing back just like he was like nothing happened. He’s tough, he’s durable, and credit to him.”
The victory marked the second title defense for Volkanovski, who admits he doesn’t know what is next for him at this point, considering contender options and the travel situation with COVID-19 lockdowns and visas being such an issue for his family and team in New Zealand and Australia.
With Max Holloway taking on Yair Rodriguez in November, it could be longer than Volkanovski would like to wait for the winner of that fight to be ready. He may stay in Las Vegas and see what fights are available to him in the near future, but would also entertain a move up to lightweight if no challenger for his belt would be available.
“We’re gonna talk to the family, talk to the team, and see what’s our best move,” Volkanovski said. “Maybe we ride it out here, just smash some fights out, everyone just build everything up and kick some ass.”
Watch the full post-fight interview with Volkanovski in the video above.
Alexander Volkanovski def. Brian Ortega at UFC 266: Best photos
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UFC 266: Official scorecards from Las Vegas
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