The biggest victory of UFC featherweight Alexander Volkanovski's career nearly turned into one of the worst moments of his life after he was hospitalized with a blood infection while traveling home to Australia. He's home now and recovering, but said recently that he could have lost his leg and quite possibly his life had the situation unfolded in a different manner.
Volkanovski defeated longtime featherweight great Jose Aldo at UFC 237 on May 11 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His foot was swollen and red after the fight, but he chalked that up to trauma from the bout. In a sport that involves a lot of punching and kicking, it's not uncommon, even after a victory, to have some bumps and bruises after the fight.
But as Volkanovski was making his way out of Rio and back to Australia, his condition rapidly deteriorated to the point that he was dizzy and not fully aware of what was happening. Luckily, during a stopover in Santiago, Chile, he and his team sought medical attention and he was rushed to a local hospital for treatment.
"I had 40+ degree (Celsius) temperatures (104+ degrees Fahrenheit), it was nasty stuff," Volkanovski told ESPN. "I was delirious by then and didn't really know what was going on, but I was like 'get me a doctor, I need a doctor.' So they did that and, yeah, it was pretty serious, the antibiotics didn't work straight away; we were really worried about it hitting my tendons and bones because it was very close, once it does that you can have problems.
"So we were pretty lucky the plane stopped in Chile rather than if I'd got on the next flight. Within a couple of hours I would have had to tell them we've got to turn this flight around, and by then the damage would have been done and I could have lost the leg, lose your life. That stuff's very, very serious, but it didn't get to that stage. We got it just at the right time; we left it too long where it rocked me so much, but we got in just in time for it not to do serious damage."
Alexander Volkanovski expects UFC title shot next
Volkanovski spent several days in the hospital in Santiago, but eventually made it home, where he is now looking toward the next step in his career, which is likely to be a shot at the UFC featherweight championship. He had been hoping to be champion Max Holloway's next challenger after defeating Aldo, but as he was being derailed by the blood infection, the UFC moved to match Holloway with Frankie Edgar in a long-anticipated showdown that is set to take place on July 27 at UFC 240 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Volkanovski believes that there is a good chance he'll face the winner of that bout as part of a blockbuster fight card that is being planned for Australia later this year. UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, an Australian, is expected to unify his belt with interim champion Israel Adesanya, a New Zealander, in a fight that would be momentous for the region. Volkanovski fighting for the belt on the same card would certainly make it one of the biggest fight cards in history in that part of the world.
"We were talking to the matchmakers and that's their plans," Volkanovski stated. "They said 'look, obviously we need to see what happens with Max and Frankie, but we still would love to have Alex fight Max or whoever the winner is later this year on that card in Australia. So that's what we're looking for. And obviously Alex is the No. 1 contender, he's next in line'."
It's difficult to deny that Volkanovski has earned the title shot. He is 20-1 overall and has won all seven of his UFC bouts, including the recent win over former longtime champion Aldo, as well as former contender Chad Mendes.