Alexander Volkanovski has responded to those who believe he was a fortunate victor at UFC 251, president Dana White included, saying that the judges made the right call in line with the company's scoring system.
Volkanovski retained his UFC featherweight crown via split decision over Max Holloway on Saturday at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi -- but only after he recovered from a dominant start by the Hawaiian.
Holloway was in control for the first two rounds, which was confirmed on all three judges' scoresheets, before Volkanovski got himself into the fight in the third round. The Australian went on to win the third and fourth rounds unanimously before two of the three judges awarded him the final round to create the split-decision result.
White was among those who didn't see it that way. He said a short while after the fight that there was some "bad judging" and then asked the media in attendance: "Did anybody have it for Volkanovski?"
Asked about those comments, Volkanovski admitted that he was surprised by White's take.
"People can sit there and say, 'Oh, the knockdowns' and whatever, but there is a way the scoring system works, and you can see why the judges gave it to me," Volkanovski told ESPN. "But for him to actually say that, I was surprised. I didn't think it was good of him. At the same time, everyone's entitled to their opinions."
Volkanovski was on the back foot early in Abu Dhabi, as he struggled to penetrate Holloway's defences and took time to adjust to his opponent's stance, which Holloway altered since the duo's first fight in December.
Volkanovski was knocked to the ground at the end of the first round and took further punishment in the second, leaving him in little doubt that he was trailing 2-0 and needing to turn things around in Round 3.
He did so and said the remainder of the contest was clearly his.
"I saw it go how the judges saw it go," Volkanovski said. "I know it was a close fight. Obviously, Max came out strong, and he took those first two rounds, even though they were competitive until he landed those shots that got me down and stole those rounds.
"At the same time, I know how the scoring system works, so I let them two rounds go. I knew he had 10, and I had nine points on both of those rounds, and I really had to dig deep and show what champions are really made of. That's the person that I've always prided myself on being -- a hard worker with the determination -- but I had to dig deep, and I had to make adjustments, and that's exactly what I did.
"And that's what two of the judges [saw] as well, but people are always going to have their opinions, and I can't really dwell on that. I know I won, and a lot of people know I won, too. But there are a lot of people who saw those first two rounds and then don't want to let them go. The third round was close, and I can see why they might want to give that to him, but the official numbers came through and proved what I thought while I was in there."
Although he doesn't agree with White's assessment of the fight, Volkanovski will certainly get behind any plan for the UFC to head to Australia or New Zealand later this year.
White said over the weekend that he was aware that New Zealand "was doing stuff with fans," and Dave Shaw, UFC senior vice president of international and content, told ESPN on Monday that a replacement Perth event -- UFC 251 was canceled in the West Australian capital and moved to Fight Island -- is also a "priority."
There are obviously a lot of roadblocks to be cleared for either country to host a UFC event amid the coronavirus pandemic, but Volkanovski will be ready to headline if it becomes a reality.
"How could you turn that down? And that's exactly what we want to do," he told ESPN when informed of the UFC's plans. "We've had to take so much because of what's going on. I have to squeeze one in before the year is out. I usually try and get three fights in a year before the 12 months [is up], so I want to get another fight in before Dec. 14. So if they can make that happen, I'd be more than happy to get on that card.
"I missed out on being able to defend the belt in Australia. But if this opportunity comes up, and they do have a card, then 100 percent: I would love that."