Alexander Volkanovski and Israel Adesanya both fell short in their bids to become two-division champions, and their coach Eugene Bareman knows why.
Following Volkanovski’s decision loss to Islam Makhachev at UFC 284 — a win would have given Volkanovski titles at 145 and 155 pounds — Bareman appeared on The MMA Hour to share his thoughts on why the featherweight champion didn’t leave Perth, Australia, with a second belt. It’s a conversation that Bareman is familiar with, given that City Kickboxing’s Israel Adesanya also went up in weight during his middleweight championship reign in 2021 to challenge Jan Blachowicz for the 205-pound belt and also lost a decision.
” The obvious answer to that question is weight divisions are there for a reason,” Bareman stated. You will always be up against a stronger, bigger man. When you go up a weight division, it really comes down to have you got enough skill to offset the strength and weight advantage. It’s all about that. That was the same thing with Israel and it was the same thing with Volk.
“I would have to say, with the benefit of hindsight, that both those guys probably suffered from the same fate in terms of they just weren’t quite skilled enough to offset a size advantage if you look at how both those fights panned out. Sometimes, that’s how things work sometimes. Israel and Volk can either win the title, then retire or stay in their respective divisions to rule them forever. But that is not their nature. They just don’t have it in them to be satisfied with where they are. They just always look for the bigger and bigger place, the place that can push them a little further, the place that can challenge them the most and that’s a unique characteristic. They are the one percent.
“They’re not the champions that are just going to stay there and be satisfied. They’re going to take the biggest fights. Who’s the biggest fight? You guys say Pereira’s the biggest fight, we’re taking Pereira. Jan is the most important fight. We’re taking Jan. You can only have that inside you, and then it’s possible to be great. This is how legends are made .”
The UFC 284 main event was a tightly contested affair, with both fighters flashing their striking prowess and Volkanovski showing incredible grappling defense against Makhachev’s highly vaunted wrestling attack. In the end, Volkanovski didn’t muster up enough offense to convince the judges to give him enough rounds, though he feels that he did enough to win rounds 2, 3, and 5.
Bareman, admitting bias, said he scored 1, 2, and 5 for Volkanovski after re-watching the fight, but added that Volkanovski could have done more early on.
“I think Alex alluded to it himself after the fight, he probably gave Islam a bit too much respect too early, so 1 and 2,” Bareman said. I don’t know how to avoid that. You must approach fights cautiously. It’s important to identify a man first. That’s how you approach a fight. Alex felt that he needed to be more cautious early on. However, he did eventually get out of his cautious mindset and was able push the pace.
Bareman acknowledged the difficult task Volkanovski will face if he attempts to make a permanent switch to lightweight. It’s not surprising that he would like to see him return to featherweight and defend his title. Volkanovski doesn’t have to look far for a challenger as Yair Rodriguez claimed an interim featherweight belt with an impressive win over Josh Emett at UFC 284.
Bareman isn’t looking for an easier challenge either, as he sees Rodriguez as a legitimate threat to Volkanovski’s reign.
“If you’re asking me — and it’s never my decision, it’s a team decision — go back to ’45,” Bareman said. “Obviously, there’s a fight that’s sitting right there. It’s unclear what Islam is doing. I have no idea if Islam will fight anytime soon or whether he only fights twice per year. We have a fight locked in if Alex wants it and it’s a very difficult fight, in many ways a much more difficult fight than the one we just had, versus Yair. I think that’s a challenge and I think he should probably take it.”