UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski Used To Be A 214-Pound Rugby Player
The Australian is currently preparing to defend his title against former champion Max Holloway at UFC 251 on Fight Island, but he could have had a completely separate career in sport.
He became a semi-pro player for the Warrila Gorillas in the South Coast Rugby league and was awarded the Mick Cronin medal for being the league's best player in 2010.
2011 also saw Volkanovski receive Man of the Match for his performance against Gerringong Lions in the CRL Grand Final game.
tai tuivasas been posting old rugby photos lately! could this be a hint at a possible weight cut down to featherweight for the big man like volkanovski? pic.twitter.com/KxLfMyobeG
- Smokey J:punch:MMA (@smokeyjmma) June 17, 2020
However, the 31-year-old decided to quit the sport in 2012 and instead focus on an MMA career.
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Since then, 'The Great' has shed the weight and dropped to 145-pounds, a weight more fitting for a fight standing at five foot six.
He became featherweight champion last year after defeating Holloway at UFC 245 and the two will go at it again on Saturday night.
Volkanovski discussed the transition from rugby to MMA with Joe Rogan and the dramatic weight loss that followed.
"I had four amateur fights [when playing rugby] then went pro," the New South Wales native revealed. "[My first loss] That was against at the time, Corey Nelson, he was pound-for-pound number one.
"Obviously, this was at welterweight, this was very early in my career and I should not have taken that fight. But we were in a tournament and I had him first so I had the favorite straight up.
"And again, it was in a division I probably should have never been in. But, you know, I took him on and I did alright, I held my own, but things didn't go well.
"It went a lot better for me after that because I realised that he was too strong so I thought 'right I have to go down, or I have to start grappling as well.' So that's when I actually started grappling after that."
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Featured Image Credit: Alexander Volkanovski/Instagram