After Alexander Volkanovski’s convincing win over Jose Aldo at UFC 237, it seemed certain that the Aussie would be next in line to challenge the champion Max Holloway for the 145-pound belt, but the UFC decided to award the fight to former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
The decision frustrated Volkanovski and his team, as they had been eyeing a potential dual-Australian title fight card Down Under which would be headlined by Volkanovski’s fellow countryman, middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, who will take on New Zealander interim champ Israel Adesanya.
Edgar -- who has not fought in over a year -- will now challenge Holloway at UFC 240 in July, and according to Edgar’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, the decision to award Edgar the chance to fight for the title required some convincing.
Abdelaziz featured recently on MMAFighting’s “The MMA Hour” and said while he respects Volkanovski, his fighter helped out the UFC last year when he agreed to fight Brian Ortega on short notice, but ended up getting knocked out in the fight:
“Alex Volkanovski is an amazing fighter, great kid,” Abdelaziz said. “You can’t say anything bad about him. But listen, Frankie has been in this company for 10 years, he got passed over so many times, he got a lot of title shots. He put his title shot on the line versus [Brian] Ortega and that was part of the deal. He said, ‘You know what, guys? I’m going to go ahead, I’m going to fight. I need to fight.’ And he saved the main event. Ortega was in the same position to fight Jeremy Stephens for the interim belt [at UFC 226] and he turned it down, right? And all I have to say is I spoke to the UFC brass, Dana [White] and Sean [Shelby] and Hunter [Campbell], all of these guys. I said, ‘Guys, listen. This is the deal. Frankie went out there and got a win. He’s been such a great guy and he deserves this title shot.’
“Dana White is a very emotional guy,” Abdelaziz added. “He likes Frankie a lot, and that was a big factor of this. But he understands, he looked at Frankie’s career and what he has done. And I know this business is how good have you done for me lately -- this is the type of business we’re in -- but I really went [to that meeting], and everybody thought I was going to talk about Khabib, this or this. I said, ‘Listen, I’m not here to talk about nothing else. I only here to talk about Frankie.’ And I talked and I made my case, and they said, ‘For the first time, you are right. We’re in.’ It’s a bigger fight. I think, also timing, the UFC is talking about going to Australia, right? When you save this fight card for Australia [at UFC 243], you have Max or Frankie fighting Alex. It’s timing too. From a business standpoint, it’s better for the UFC to have Alex to fight later if they still can have the Australia card, right? Because if they have Adesanya vs. Whittaker, Frankie vs. Alex or Max vs. Alex, the winner, in a business way it works out.”
The decision to pass Volkanovski over for the immediate title shot was also due in part to the fact that he is recovering from a blood infection he suffered after his fight against Aldo. The Aussie was treated in Chile until his condition improved and was only recently allowed to return home to Australia.