UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski is pissed off.
Six months removed from his win over Max Holloway, the concensus greatest featherweight champion in UFC history, the Wollongong warrior is still working to earn the respect he deserves.
The pair will square off again at UFC 251 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi early next month, an expected rematch that gives Volkanovski another opportunity to further his legacy.
While their first encounter was a terrific, strategic showcase, what has Volkanovski worked up is the ongoing rhetoric that it was a close fight. The 31-year-old, who spends his fight camps between Auckland's City Kickboxing and Wollongong's Freestyle Fighting Gym, took out a unanimous decision win in December last year, though only one judge gave him all five rounds. The other two scored it three rounds to two.
Speaking to the Herald, City Kickboxing head coach Eugene Bareman, who cornered Volkanovski in the fight, said the idea that it was close hadn't just rubbed Volkanovski the wrong way.
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"There's a rhetoric that that fight was close, and that doesn't just annoy Alex, it annoys me. It was a shut out," Bareman said. "The rhetoric comes from what they call the 'Joe Rogan Effect'."
Rogan is among the more high profile UFC commentators and is usually on the microphone for title fights and pay-per-view events. A host of current and former UFC fighters, as well as career broadcasters round out the interchangeable commentary teams.
"Now, it wasn't Joe Rogan this time that was espousing that the fight was close really, it was Daniel Cormier, but for all intents and purposes we call it the 'Joe Rogan Effect'. Whatever the commentary team says, to your average fan, they're going to believe it. It's one of the big reasons I actually watch most fights silently, because I just can not listen to half of that."
On the broadcast of Volkanovski's fight against Holloway at UFC 245, Rogan praised Volkanovski's performance, saying, "I think he did enough - the question is whether the judges score it correctly", while former UFC heavyweight champion Cormier said immediately after the final bell, "I have no idea. I have no idea who won the fight. It may seem like Volkanovski did enough but I don't know".
Cormier doubled down on the sentiment when the total striking numbers were shown, which favoured Volkanovski 173-103, saying: "I think it's a very close fight, I don't know. I don't know."
Volkanovski peppered Holloway with leg kicks throughout he fight to limit the movement and power of Holloway. Holloway's lead leg was compromised as early as the second round, forcing the Hawaiian to switch stance from orthodox to southpaw.
According to the broadcast statistics, Volkanovski outstruck Holloway in all five rounds. The Australian also controlled the cage for the most part and worked some grappling into his gameplan particularly late in the piece.
"For what it was, it annoys us but it is what it is," Bareman said of the rhetoric that it was a close fight. "You also have to be comfortable with what you and your team knows. I only care what Alex and Joe and my team here think. The fact that other people think something, that's just like an itch - it doesn't really matter but it is annoying.
"I think that's what Alex is trying to get at. Give him the respect for the job he did in the fight, give him the respect for this undefeated run against some of the best fighters in the world. Put him in the category of being great, because he didn't just beat but shut out the guy you're calling the greatest. Give him that respect. That's what he's annoyed about, and I think you can see that."
Bareman will join Volkanovski in Abu Dhabi to again corner him against Holloway, alongside Freestyle Fighting Gym's Joe Lopez, Tiger Muay Thai's Frank Hickman and City Kickboxing's Brad Riddell. However, Bareman will be a late arrival on the island as he corners lightweight contender Dan Hooker this weekend against former interim champion Dustin Poirier in a main event in Las Vegas.
"It's a good fight for the fans," Bareman said of Hooker's upcoming bout. "You've got two guys and two camps that can implement very good strategy, but you've also got two guys who can fight - they can just bite down on their mouthguard and fight."