One of Alex Volkanovski’s training partners believes the Australian “definitely” has what it takes to become a UFC double champion.
Volkanovski cemented his position at the top of the featherweight division with a dominant victory over Max Holloway earlier this month and quickly set his sights on the heavier lightweight class.
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Immediately after the victory, Volkanovski called out lightweight champion Charles Oliveira, signalling his intention to move up a division.
Earlier this year, the 33-year-old told news.com.au he wants to be “the GOAT of UFC” and become a rare double champion.
Only five other fighters in the UFC’s history — Conor McGregor, George St-Pierre, Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes and Heney Cejudo — have been champions of two divisions.
And Mike Mathetha, who trains with Volkanovski at Auckland’s City Kickboxing gym, has no doubt his stablemate can achieve the difficult feat.
“If anyone can do it, it’s definitely him,” Mathetha told news.com.au.
“He’s shown how good he is, he’s been real dominant in his weight class. He’s just miles away from anyone else.
“And he’s hungry, he’s hungry for a big challenge. Why not? Why not? He can definitely be a double champ.”
Mathetha will feature on the early preliminary card for UFC 277 on Sunday (AEST), headlined by the women’s bantamweight clash between Julianna Pena and Amanda Nunes.
The co-main event will see another fighter from City Kickboxing, New Zealand’s Kai Kara-France, take on Brandon Moreno for the interim flyweight title.
“For Kai, he’s always been a champ,” Mathetha said.
“This weekend he’s just going to show the world how he becomes a champ.”
Mathetha, aka Blood Diamond, will face finally Orion Cosce after their fight was postponed in June because of an undisclosed injury to Mathetha.
The 33-year-old lost his UFC debut to Jeremiah Wells via submission earlier this year, and he is determined to get a win on the board against Cosce and show what he can do in the octagon.
“I enjoy the sport so being able to compete, it’s quite exciting,” Mathetha said.
“Every fight is always a challenge so no matter what, you need to be a better fighter than you were before.
“That said, it’s more like I actually get the world what I can really do. This time I can come to the dance and actually dance.
“In the fight game, you always need to improve something. You can’t pinpoint one thing. I think one of my biggest lessons is to be a bit more patient (and) not get caught up thinking it’s a kickboxing fight.
“I’ve got to remember you can get taken down. I think mainly patience is something I’ve had to learn.
“To be honest, in the fight game there’s always going to be a winner and there’s going to be someone who’s learning something.
“If you’re not a winner, you’re learning and if you’re not learning, you’re in the wrong sport. I’m getting to learn my lessons and just show something a bit more different.”
Mathetha trains with Volkanovski, Kara-France and middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and said rubbing shoulders with fighters at the top of their game is invaluable.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said.
“The thing about training is them, everyone is humble in the sense that even though we’re all at different levels, we all train the same.
“When you see us training, if you didn’t know what status who us, you wouldn’t know.
“We’re all just training the same, we’re all sharing the same energy and just working as one.”
HOW CAN I WATCH UFC 277?
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WHEN DOES UFC 277 START?
The main card starts on Sunday at midday AEST. The prelims start at 10am AEST and the early prelims begin at 8am AEST.
UFC 277 CARD
Julianna Pena (c) vs. Amanda Nunes – women‘s bantamweight title
Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France – flyweight interim title
Derrick Lewis vs. Sergei Pavlovich – heavyweight
Alexandre Pantoja vs. Alex Perez – flyweight
Anthony Smith vs. Magomed Ankalaev – light heavyweight
Alex Morono vs. Matthew Semelsberger – welterweight
Drew Dober vs. Rafael Alves – lightweight
Don‘Tale Mayes vs. Hamdy Abdelwahab – heavyweight
Drakkar Klose vs. Rafa García – lightweight
Early preliminary card
Michael Morales vs. Adam Fugitt – welterweight
Joselyne Edwards vs. Ji Yeon Kim – women‘s bantamweight
Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Ihor Potieria – light heavyweight
Orion Cosce vs. Mike Mathetha – welterweight