Alexander Volkanovski Yawns Away Topuria’s Antics

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Alexander Volkanovski shrugged off Ilia Topuria’s attempts to put him out of his balance at the UFC 298 pre-fight press conference, and not just because he sported an appearance that could suggest he needed hearing aids.

Capitalizing on the narrative of age catching up, Volkanovski made a comical entrance in Anaheim, California, dressing like his grandfather with a cardigan, a chain dangling from bifocal glasses, and a newsboy cap.

Volkanovski to Topuria: “Get your hands off my belt.”

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In good spirits, Volkanovski aimed to inject some humor into the situation after enduring weeks of questions about his validity as a champion at the age of 35, a perceived threshold for success in smaller weight classes.

“Just having a bit of fun with it. You’ve got to do it, for the people as well. Everyone appreciated the outfit, so I wanted to do it in person.”

Despite the playful atmosphere, Ilia Topuria was focused on business, and was met with a barrage of boos from the audience, prompting him to lash out at the crowd before redirecting his attention to elder Volkanovski.

“Shut the f*** up! Shut up,” Topuria shouted. “You see how you can dress? You already know what’s going to happen. You just came ready for your retirement. Look how you look as an old man.”

Repeatedly attempting to verbally provoke Volkanovski, Topuria’s trash talk fell on deaf ears as the UFC featherweight champion refused to engage. Undeterred, Topuria leaned over the table, swiping the UFC belt in front of Volkanovski, finally prompting a reaction as the champion leaped out of his seat.

“Stand up and do something,” Topuria said. “Humble me. I’m right here in front of you. Do something.”

While the belt eventually returned to its rightful owner, Volkanovski nonchalantly dismissed the incident. He then delivered a message to Topuria, maintaining his cool demeanor.

“Until then, get your hands off my belt.”

Topuria’s move of stealing the title belt echoed Conor McGregor’s infamous action against Jose Aldo before their featherweight title fight at UFC 194. 

As the press conference unfolded, tensions were running high with every passing second. McGregor, known for his arrogant antics, was engaging in verbal sparring with Aldo, the reigning featherweight champion at that time.

In a dramatic turn of events, the Irishman, displaying his characteristic flair for the dramatic, reached over and swiftly grabbed Aldo’s belt from the table in front of the champion. The move was a bold and provocative statement, symbolizing McGregor’s confidence and belief that he would emerge victorious in their upcoming bout.

However, Volkanovski reacted differently, choosing not to lunge or tackle Topuria but instead continued to laugh off the situation, even feigning falling asleep while Topuria spoke.

“Conor McGregor wannabe huh? How about this bloke?” I think this old man needs to teach this young fella a lesson.”

Despite the apparent tension, the UFC 298 fighters faced off without incident, exchanging a handshake before parting ways. With the verbal sparring nearly concluded, Volkanovski will try to defend his featherweight title for the sixth consecutive time, just one defense away from tying Jose Aldo’s all-time record at 145 pounds.

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