Alexander Volkanovski says new main event for UFC 251 in its 'rightful place'

Alexander Volkanovski found out he's a part of the new main event for UFC 251 upon landing in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

A source confirmed to ESPN that Gilbert Burns would not compete against welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in the original main event on July 11. As a result, Volkanovski's fight against Max Holloway for the UFC featherweight title was bumped up to the headline spot.

"This was the real main event," Volkanovski told ESPN. "A lot of people thought this was the main event, so it's in its rightful place."

Unlike other fighters competing on the UFC 251 card, Volkanovski didn't have to go to one of the four hub cities -- Las Vegas, Moscow, London and Sao Paulo -- that the UFC set up for travel to Abu Dhabi. Instead, he flew with his team directly from Sydney, but unbeknownst to him, his travel plans came down to the wire.

"We didn't get an exemption to leave Australia until about six hours before our flight," Volkanovski said. "The team didn't really let me know about that. They just wanted to get that out of the way. They did a good job in making that happen.

"They had to get the Abu Dhabi government to let us in, as well."

On Friday, Holloway told ESPN he didn't train with any training partners for this fight and that he saw his coaches for the first time on Wednesday at the airport on their way to Las Vegas from Hawaii.

"Everything we were doing [was] through Zoom," Holloway said. "If you got caught at the gym, because there was lockdown and stuff, we all could have gotten arrested. It was a little bit more of a sacrifice for me on my end if I went out there. You know [the authorities are] gonna make a point. [They] see my butt out there, 'Yeah, let's get this guy. Let's make a point and put fear into people.'"

Volkanovski isn't buying that story.

"To be quite honest, I don't believe that. That's all s---. Whether he's doing it to cover things on his end -- I don't want to accuse him of anything -- but we had to get exemptions to train, so I couldn't train until I got that done. So there was a lot that needed to happen for the government.

"Again, I'm not going to accuse him of anything, but I don't believe that he hasn't been training. I'm preparing for a fully prepared Max either way."

Volkanovski, 31, defeated Holloway via unanimous decision in December to win the featherweight title. The native of Australia has won his past 18 fights.