Alexander Volkanovski will return to Australia as soon as he is cleared of COVID-19, dispelling rumours the UFC featherweight champ planned to stay in Las Vegas and prepare for a rescheduled title defence against American Brian Ortega.
The Daily Telegraph can confirm Volkanovski plans to fly back into Sydney, where he will then be forced to quarantine for two weeks, whenever UFC medical staff give him the green light to travel.
Despite the cancellation of his hyped UFC 260 title defence, Team Volkanovski will still be in the building for Sunday’s card at the UFC Apex Centre however — with the champ’s head coach agreeing to help corner fellow Australian, and rising lightweight, Jamie Mullarkey.
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Alexander Volkanovski is set to return to Australia. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Despite being around Volkanovski when the champ tested positive, Lopez did not contract COVID, allowing him to assist 26-year-old Mullarkey as initially planned.
The Central Coast striker has been working closely with the trainer for three months now, having been handpicked to go into a Wollongong camp to help Volkanovski prepare for what was to be his second UFC title defence.
However the champ was forced from UFC 260 a week ago following revelations he had contracted COVID-19 sometime after arriving in the world’s fight capital.
Since then, there have been suggestions about the Aussie recovering and staying Stateside to prepare for a rescheduled bout against Ortega, rather than returning home to quarantine.
However, Volkanovski’s manager Lube Markovski confirmed the fighter wants to fly home as soon as possible.
“We’ve spoken and Alex wants to get back to Sydney,” he said.
“So our first priority is to make sure he gets back to Australia safely. Then after that we can start to look at rescheduling the fight.”
Currently, there has been no new date set for the Ortega bout. However, given the Aussie could be in the States at least another week before being cleared, and then face another fortnight in hotel lockdown, it could be July before he fights again.
Despite having his title fight cancelled however, Volkanovski’s COVID-19 symptoms have been limited to a sore throat and feeling like he had contracted “a bad case of the flu”.
Certainly the positive test came as a surprise to the champ’s team, who are notoriously diligent in terms of preparation.
Regardless, the focus for Aussie fight fans now shifts towards Mullarkey, who will be looking to earn his first UFC win against American Khama Worthy (16-7).
Volkanovski’s coach Joe Lopez (centre) will be there watching Jamie Mullarkey. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Simon Bullard.Source:News Corp Australia
Asked about the fight this week, Mullarkey said: “I think it’s a good stylistic matchup for me.
“Khama Worthy comes to fight, and they’re the guys that I want to fight.”
Despite going without a win in his first two UFC fights, Mullarkey is keen to get back to the type of finishing style that, overall, has seen him win 12 of 16 professional fights, only one of which has gone to a decision.
Indeed, for his first Octagon appearance, taken on short notice, the Coastie endured a war with New Zealander Brad Riddell at UFC 243, which earned a $50,000 ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus. Then last October, at UFC Fight Island 6, he suffered a controversial split decision loss to Frenchman Fares Ziam.
Mullarkey has since revealed that afterwards, he spoke with UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby who agreed his hand should have been raised.
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Regardless, the Aussie now plans to get it done at UFC 260.
Worthy, meanwhile, admitted he was just pleased the fight was going ahead, admitting he feared Mullarkey may have also contracted COVID-19 after hearing about the Volkanovski positive.
Asked his initial reaction, the Pittsburgh native said: “Oh shit, I instantly texted my manager … (but) he said ‘no, he’s good right now’
“He’s in isolation so everything should be good.”
The American also said that, while Mullarkey may be coming off consecutive losses, he was well aware of his toughness.
“I try to watch every lightweight in the UFC,” he said. “Even if you’re a lightweight outside the UFC and you’re looking at it I’m watching you.
“So I knew who he was.
“Knew he was tough.
“He had two really tough kickboxers for his first two fights so that’s a hard break. And this is a tough division so I’m expecting him to come out ready to go.”
Originally published asAussie UFC champ’s next move after COVID positive
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