Alexander Volkanovski has welcomed Henry Cejudo’s return to the USADA test squad, but the Aussie says he’s more focused on a move up to lightweight and an immediate crack at becoming a UFC champion in two divisions.
Fresh off his dominance over Chan Sung Jung at UFC 273, Volkanovski is already making his plans for the rest of 2022 – something Cejudo is unlikely to be a part of, given athletes typically have to be put through six months of tests before they are. eligible to compete.
Still, Volkanovski says he’s glad Cejudo is finally walking, and not just talking, as was the case during the Aussie’s impressive rise to become one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the UFC.
“Well at least he is [Cejudo] one step closer to the commitment to support what he says because he tweets every time [after I fight]”, Volkanovski told ESPN. “How many times have you heard him say things?
“At least now I’m waiting for you [the media] talk to me about it because at least he shows some kind of commitment [to making a return]. But that doesn’t mean he joined my division either. Anyone would come back if they could get a title shot in their division of choice.”
Cejudo directly called out Volkanovski on Twitter on Monday, after manager Ali Abdelaziz previously confirmed to ESPN that his client was set to re-enter the USADA testing pool.
While open to a fight with Cejudo in the future, Volkanovski says the former two-division UFC champion had no right to just come in and expect a featherweight title shot. despite having not competed for two years.
“Go out there and always earn that No. 1 spot,” Volkanovski said. “I think he’s in a much better position than anybody else who’s out of the division to come in and get a title shot. If you go out there and fight a guy, I think you definitely get that title shot, which is still very fair. I feel like it’s still a great opportunity for him.
“But if he expects to get into a title shot right away, that’s pretty ridiculous. Whether he’s in the tryout group to fight bantamweight or featherweight, I don’t know. But if he’s going to go into featherweight, then fight somebody and I think that gets you the No. 1 contender spot just like that.”
While Max Holloway – the American who was Volkanovski’s first opponent at UFC 273 – appears to be the Australian’s next opponent, the champion is apparently more motivated by another challenge.
That comes at lightweight, where he sees himself as immediately deserving of a title shot.
No gnashing of teeth. Just speak frankly. I walked into the USADA pool.
I know I could beat @alexvolkanovski. I want to become the 1st 3 division champion in UFC history. Or, he could silence the grimace. It would be a treat for the fans.
Anyway, the 👑 is back! https://t.co/s0CfnTvFOo pic.twitter.com/lsDpJMnSC8
— Henry Cejudo (@HenryCejudo) April 11, 2022
“I want it this year. It’s something I watch next,” he told ESPN. “As I said, while this division [featherweight] sorts out; I’m doing my part, I don’t want to delay any division. But if this division is blocked, it is because the pretenders do not take the first place. It has nothing to do with me.
“So if [they’re] I’m going to do this, I want to be active, I’m going to progress, I’m going to work on my options because I’m not delaying anyone and I’m doing my part. So if people don’t wanna do their part, let’s have fun, do those money fights, get those double champion statuses [fights], let’s do all that stuff while it’s happening. And I think I’m in a good position and a fair position to claim double champion status.”
When asked if he was wrong that Cejudo should fight his way to a title shot and expect one immediately himself at lightweight, Volkanovski pointed out that he was fighting without stoppage since joining the UFC in 2016.
“I think I deserve a chance to be that [lightweight] champion,” he said. “I was talking about someone who’s retired, when we’re talking about Henry going straight into a featherweight division, I’m talking about someone who’s been retired since a few years; I don’t even know how long?
“He never fought in the division for one, and he retired…that’s why I’m saying I feel like he has to do something [first]. If he was still bantamweight champion and he had some defenses, then okay, now he has appeal. Now he has something behind it, there is a lot of weight behind it.
“While I’m in a position where I’ve taken out the GOATs [Jose Aldo and Holloway]I go out there and absolutely dominate these guys, four title fights, three defenses, not maintaining the division.
“Now I haven’t called for it till now; you haven’t seen me demand it [after the win over Jung] and I don’t demand it now, but you haven’t really seen me call it until now, it just shows you the type of guy I am. And there is truth in what I say about Henry Cejudo; he must deserve it.
“But I feel like I’m in the position where I’ve earned a chance at this lightweight Alexander Volkanovski wants lightweight title shot, welcomes Henry Cejudo’s return, so now I’m going to call it. That’s where we are now.”
When asked if he would be ready to fight the winner of Charles Oliveira against Justin Gaethje, the lightweight title showdown scheduled for UFC 274 next month later this year, Volkanovski said he would be ready to leave.
“August sounds good, and in Australia it sounds good too,” he told ESPN. “I know Dana [White] not too sure [fighting in Australia] but we will have these conversations and we will see what we can do. ‘Cause I feel like there wouldn’t be [many] hurdles to get it in Australia.
“They always want to know what’s going on with the country [COVID restrictions] so we will have these conversations and see what we can do, because I have to defend my feelings in Australia as soon as possible.
“I want my next fight in Australia and I think we deserve it.”