This NZ gym is taking over UFC
THERE'S an answer to every question.
And on Sunday (AEDT), Australian Alexander Volkanovski will be out to solve the hardest question of all: Max Holloway.
The good news? He has a cheat sheet.
Volkanovski will look to become Australia's second-ever UFC champion in Las Vegas, in a featherweight title fight against the most dominant male titleholder in the organisation.
The brawler out of Shellharbour, NSW left for the US from Auckland, after preparing, once more, at City Kickboxing. It's the gym responsible for middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, and a number of other UFC stars.
Fighters out of CKB are on a 10-fight win streak in the UFC in 2019. And it's no coincidence.
"It's sort of like going into a test and you have the answers on the back of your hand," Dan Hooker told foxsports.com.au in October ahead of his win over Al Iaquinta. "You have an advantage going in."
That's the common theme when you speak to every fighter at the gym; the coaches are at another level, and the homework that goes into each match-up is just different.
"I really do believe that the boys are ahead of the game," Volkanovski explained. "They go real deep."
That process is spearheaded by City Kickboxing head coach, Eugene Bareman, who admitted Holloway had been his toughest test to date.
"Holloway's been by far, at least when it comes to the UFC, the hardest guy I've ever had to prepare any game plan for," Bareman said.
"The most difficult guys to fight are always going to be the guys with that big, massive cardio base - those guys that just never get tired.
"Luckily, I've got one of those guys fighting one of those guys. So in terms of that, that cancels itself out. Both these guys can't count on each other getting tired, because they just don't get tired.
"So then it's going to come down to a skill and strategy game. So we just have to have a multifaceted game plan that we can switch to, and we can go down several branches."
Holloway has defended his 145-pound belt three times since stripping it from Brazilian legend Jose Aldo. It's the most defences among current male champions.
He also has the most featherweight wins (16) and finishes (10) in UFC history, along with the most significant strikes landed (1937). He possesses a limitless gas tank, and the sort of striking that separates him from the pack. Quite frankly, at featherweight, the Hawaiian hasn't looked like losing in years.
It's led casuals, and even some experts, to wholly write Volkanovski off.
The Australian is 7-0 in the UFC, including wins over Aldo and Chad Mendes, but his small stature and quick rise means some haven't quite started paying attention just yet.
At UFC 245, Volkanovski has the chance to stop the "Blessed Express" in its tracks, and catapult himself into a new stratosphere. Down Aldo and Holloway back-to-back on the way to the belt and the 31-year-old puts himself in the 'best 145-pounder of all time' conversation.
Good thing he has the recipe for success, then.
"I know the answers," Volkanovski said of his preparation for Holloway.
He believes the CKB preparation and his own natural instincts leave very little room for Holloway to do what he does to most opponents.
"Where he really does break people … it's just not going to work on me," Volkanovski said.
"But then at the same time, me, I like to break people; he probably might not break. But I just believe that I'm going to be too strong.
"If I want to control him on the ground, I can. If I grab a hold of him, he won't be able to get away - I truly believe that. When he wants to pour it on, I believe that my punches are going to be too powerful and he's going to be in for a rude shock."
Volkanovski added: "We're ahead of the game … we know what he does, if not more."
It's big talk, yes. But Volkanovski has called his shots from day dot. And well, he's backed it up at every opportunity.
Sure, Holloway is nothing like Volkanovski, or the coaches at CKB, have seen before. But that just meant a little bit more film-watching than usual.
"We've figured him out," Brad Riddell, Volkanovski's striking coach and another UFC fighter out of CKB, explained.
"Everybody gets figured out. It took a while, but we got there."
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