Michael Chandler hopes Alexander Volkanovski takes longer layoff after back-to-back knockout losses

Did Alexander Volkanovski come back too soon?

It’s a question plenty of people have asked since Volkanovski’s almost five-year reign atop the UFC featherweight division ended with a brutal knockout loss to Ilia Topuria at UFC 298. The result was Volkanovski’s second straight knockout loss — “The Great” fell similarly to a first-round head kick against UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev in a short-notice bout this past October — and his four-month turnaround between fights raised eyebrows considering UFC 294 marked the first knockout defeat of Volkanovski’s octagon tenure.

Three-time Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler is a gigantic fan of Volkanovski, yet he can’t help but see the validity of some people’s concerns.

“Man, I never want to strengthen the narrative of someone maybe making a bad decision, but it would maybe lend itself to that, right?” Chandler said on The MMA Hour. “I mean, Volk coming out, taking that fight on short notice, and then fighting — what? — three and a half, four months after, which means you’re back into a training camp, back sparring, taking blows to the head again, just month and a half, two months later. It’s not the right recipe, so to speak. Almost pretty much the exact opposite of what I’ve done. And this is why you can look at that and you can say, ‘Man, Volk might have had a different outcome that night had he not gone right back into a training camp.’

“It is a real thing. Your brain can shut off, your body can shut off, and it is a there is a diminishing effect when it comes to being able to take punches. And yeah, I don’t want to say that was why it happened, but I want to see the best for Volk. I would like to see him sit down a little bit, enjoy some time with his family, still stay involved but don’t take any punches to the head, man, because we need him in the sport for a little while longer.”

Volkanovski, 35, is now just 1-3 over his past four bouts after starting his UFC career with a legendary 12-0 run that saw him capture the featherweight title and defend it five times.

Topuria, 27, on the other hand, appears to have all the makings of a superstar. The charismatic champion is a perfect 15-0 in his MMA career (7-0 UFC) and has already emerged as a breakout figure in his native Spain. After his win, Topuria called to fight Conor McGregor at a blockbuster stadium show in his home country.

Of course, Chandler has sat out close to a year of his own career waiting for the McGregor fight that has long been promised to him yet remains unbooked. But Chandler isn’t perturbed by Topuria’s request. He just wants the new champ to get in line.

“More power to him, man,” Chandler said. “He’s undefeated, he’s salty, he’s young but he’s not that young. He’s 27, I believe, right? So he’s getting into that realm of, hey, this guy’s firing on all cylinders. I was there that night [at UFC 298], I was cageside front row watching it. I was honestly pulling for Volk. If you don’t like Alexander Volkanovski, I don’t know if you can be an MMA fan. He’s one of the most beloved human beings in the sport of mixed martial arts. I love him, everybody loves him. So I was pulling for Volk. The way [Topuria] was able to go out there and get the KO, man, Ilia Topuria is legit. He’s not fighting Conor next in Spain, but say the guy’s name, maybe you’ll get it after I dispatch of him.”

After his UFC 298 loss, Volkanovski called for an immediate rematch with Topuria. The UFC has thus far been noncommittal about Topuria’s next step, but regardless of whether Volkanovski gets his rematch or not, Chandler simply hopes that the former champ learns from his mistakes and takes more time to rest and recover on the sidelines before jumping back into a fight against one of the most dangerous talents in the featherweight division.

“Definitely a little bit longer than after the Islam fight, right?” Chandler said of Volkanovski. “And it’s mainly because I freaking love to dude, man. I think he’s just a great athlete, he’s a great ambassador for the sport, he’s a great champion, and I can’t say enough great things about him. And there’s a lot of things that I admire about him and his game and how he fights and how he carries himself, so it’s guys like that, the good ones in the sport, that we need to protect. Protect Volk at all costs.”

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