Josh Thomson Doubts Alexander Volkanovski Will Ever Be a UFC Champion Again: ‘Take Some Time Off’

Thomson and his podcast co-host John McCarthy look back at Volkanovski's shocking UFC 298 defeat and what comes next for Ilia Topuria

Alexander Volkanovski
Courtesy of @UFCNews on X

Josh Thomson isn’t sure Alexander Volkanovski will ever be a UFC champion again. 

On Saturday night, February 17, fans inside Anaheim’s Honda Center and those watching around the world were left in shock after Ilia Topuria did exactly what he said he was going to do — score a highlight-reel knockout of longtime UFC featherweight kingpin Alexander Volkanovski. 

It took ‘El Matador’ less than two rounds to put the kibosh on Volkanovski’s history-making title run, kickstarting a new era in one of the promotion’s most exciting divisions. 

Looking back on Volkanovski’s performance, former Strikeforce champion Josh Thomson suggested that the brutal head kick KO ‘The Great’ suffered against Islam Makhachev in October likely played a role in his loss at UFC 298. Furthermore, Thomson cast some doubt on whether or not Volkanovski would ever bounce back and become a world champion again.

“He’s already talking about a rematch in Spain and in my mind I’m going, ‘Take some time off.’ I know he’s the guy when sitting at home, he goes stir crazy, but take some time off and let yourself recover,” Thomson said on the WEIGHING IN podcast. “I think this had an effect, that head kick knockout [against Makhachev]. Not to take anything away from Topuria, but I looked at this and said to myself, the head kick had an effect. That’s one. Two, Volkanovski fought a little differently, but I think Topuria made Volkavnoski fight differently. 

“I’m not saying he can’t make another run to come back, but I think that he just needs to take some time off to reshape, reform himself, and I think you’re gonna see him run back. I don’t know if he’ll ever be champion again, but this does open up the whole featherweight division.”

What’s Next For Ilia Topuria Following His Stunning KO of Alexander Volkanovski?

As for the new UFC featherweight champion, Thomson believes there are a lot of options for Topuria’s first title defense, chief among them being a clash with division staple and former titleholder Max Holloway. 

‘Blessed’ is currently gearing up for a BMF title fight with Justin Gaethje at UFC 300 on April 13. If Holloway passes the test, he may score himself another crack at featherweight gold. 

“Topuria has a whole slew of guys in front of him that will keep him motivated,” Thomson said. “I like that he’s trying to aim for the top [by calling out Conor McGregor]. Topuria has plenty of guys who are lining up to fight him. I know Max [Holloway] is going to be busy with Justin Gaethje, but I would have liked to have seen that fight happen first thing.

“If Max loses to Justin Gaethje, I don’t think [Topuria] fights Max next.”

That begs the question — if not Holloway, then who? One suggestion made by Thomson’s co-host, ‘Big’ John McCarthy, was former bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling who is slated to make his featherweight debut at UFC 300. The ‘Funk Master’ is slated to square off with No. 8 ranked contender Calvin Kattar. If Sterling wins, it would immediately thrust him into the division’s top 10, making him a viable opponent for Ilia Topuria.

A potential contender could also emerge when Brian Ortega runs back his July 2022 showdown with former interim featherweight titleholder Yair Rodriguez at UFC Mexico City on Saturday night. 

But as good as all those potential matchups sound, none of them hold a candle to the prospect of seeing Topuria vs. Holloway with the 145-pound crown on the line. 

“I would have loved to see his first title defense be against Max Holloway because it just puts a whole new shakeup in the game if Max comes in and Max is able to beat him,” Thomson continued. “There’s just so many different ways to work that fight now that Volk has lost his title.”

Watch the full episode below:

Published on February 20, 2024 at 3:51 pm
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