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‘Sometimes you’re the nail’: Alexander Volkanovski reacts to devastating UFC 298 loss to Ilia Topuria

Alexander Volkanovski has admitted “sometimes you’re the nail” after losing his title to Ilia Topuria at UFC 298.

Volkanovski’s four-year reign as featherweight champion came to an end on Saturday (17 February), as Georgian-Spaniard Topuria knocked out the Australian in round two to take the belt.

For Volkanovski, it was a second straight knockout loss, after Islam Makhachev retained the lightweight title against the 35-year-old with a head kick in October.

“I always break down fights when I win, I’m gonna make sure I break [them down] when I lose, too,” Volkanovski said on his YouTube channel on Sunday (18 February).

“This is a crazy game we play, you can’t win them all. Sometimes you’re the hammer, sometimes you’re the nail; last night I was the nail, I’ve been the hammer many times. I’ve ruined a lot of people’s parties many times. Last night Ilia got the job done.

“I thought I was doing great, I felt great in there. I think the judges had me up the first round, and I think I was starting to pick it up even more in the second. I was ready to even go [to] another level, I had him missing, I was starting to touch him, and then I was going to start adding on.

“He did a great job of getting me up to the cage, where we knew we didn’t want to be with someone like him. He got me there, when I probably had better options than looking for a counter after he backed me up there. He caught me, so he did a great job to find that, a great shot. That’s all you need in this sport.”

Topuria scored the knockout in round two, winning the UFC men’s featherweight title (Getty Images)
Topuria scored the knockout in round two, winning the UFC men’s featherweight title (Getty Images)

Topuria, 27, knocked out Volkanovski with a perfect right hook to stay unbeaten and become the first UFC champion to represent Spain or Georgia.

“Next time it will be different, but I’m just gonna have a little bit of a rest,” Volkanovski added. “I definitely want that rematch. Spain’s what I’m hearing is gonna happen; Dana [White, UFC president] wants Spain, Ilia wants Spain.

“That probably won’t be until later in the year, so obviously the timing will be perfect for me to spend time with the [family], rest up a little bit, look after myself, and then we’ll get back in there and we’ll make it right.”

Volkanovski in the moments after his defeat by Topuria (Getty Images)
Volkanovski in the moments after his defeat by Topuria (Getty Images)

Volkanovski won the UFC featherweight title in 2019 and successfully retained it five times before losing to Topuria. In July 2023, the Australian retained the belt against Yair Rodriguez, marking his final successful defence.

Five months prior, Volkanovski lost to lightweight king Makhachev on points in Australia. Then, in October, Volkanovski stepped up on short notice to challenge the Russian again, losing via first-round knockout.