‘I grew up watching his fights’ – Alexander Volkov on fighting Roy Nelson in April (VIDEO)
Despite being a newcomer to the UFC – with just one victory over Timothy Johnson last November – the 6ft 7in Russian, who began his career in mixed martial arts eight years ago, has racked up 33 (27-6) professional fights, including seven bouts and a championship belt in Bellator.
He lost the belt to a fellow Russian, the undefeated Vitaly Minakov (19-0), in November 2013, suffering the only knockout of his career in the process.
Now, 28-year-old Volkov – nicknamed 'Drago' after his resemblance to the Rocky character – says he is ready to test himself against the best fighters in the UFC heavyweight division.
RT: You are fighting Roy Nelson in April, what do you expect from that fight?
Alexander Volkov: He’s a good, experienced opponent. I’d say it’s the biggest challenge of my career so far. He’s a veteran with a big name and one of the fighters I looked up to growing up, he’s a solid opponent. However, I feel that I’m ready to face serious opponents and win, that’s why I’m preparing to the best of my ability. Nelson has a fan base in Russia, a lot of my friends follow him and I always liked him too. MMA fans like him and it’s because of him that our fight will attract attention, but if the fans want to root for me, I certainly wouldn’t mind (laughs).
RT: When did find out you would fight him?
AV: I actually signed the contract a couple of months ago, so I already knew the name of my opponent and have been preparing for him since then. It wasn’t really a surprise for me when it was announced officially.
RT: How is training going for the bout?
AV: The first part of my camp took place in Thailand. Now I’m training here in Moscow. The next and final stage will be acclimatizing in America.
RT: What do you see as your key to victory in that fight?
AV: One of my keys could be my height and I’ll use it to my advantage when striking. Striking is my style after all, and I’ll look for a stand-up fight. But I’ll be ready for everything, as I always am.
RT: How would you rate your chances in the UFC heavyweight division?
AV: There are some really good fighters in there, they’re all at the top of the rankings, while there’s also some new blood looking to make some noise. I’d single out Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis. But they’ve had more fights than me, this will be only my second fight in the UFC. They are rivaling the top fighters, I think I’ll do that too (laughs).
RT: Just before the Arlovski-Ngannou fight, you said you might fight the winner next – why did that not materialize?
AV: There were talks with the UFC about a possible fight with the winner of Arlovski-Ngannou but after the fight, Ngannou decided to take a break and now he has different ambitions. He wants to fight for the title. So with me being ranked 11 it’s hard to talk about that fight. But I think we’ll fight later anyway. We are both strikers and despite being newcomers we’re going up in the rankings. In a year or two we’ll meet.
RT: Tell us a little bit about your fighting background.
AV: I started my career in karate. Then I tried MMA, I liked it and went pro. But yes, I have a karate style.
RT: When did people start calling you Drago?
AV: I got that nickname when I went to United States for the first time. I had to pick one so the American audience would remember by that name. I was offered a couple of options. I can’t say that I was enthusiastic about picking one, but Drago seemed right, so I kept it.