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Ex-league front rower turned UFC star Alexander Volkanovski turns to Auckland gym for biggest fight of his career

Australian UFC featherweight fighter Alexander 'The Great' Volkanovski will be given the biggest test of his career when he takes on one of greats in the mixed martial arts sport – Jose Aldo.

The 30-year-old has linked back up with Auckland's City Kickboxing gym to prepare for his UFC 237 bout on May 11 in Rio de Janeiro.

"Obviously, the training here [City Kickboxing] is unbelievable, really," said Volkanovski.

"I always do a couple of weeks at least [training] in New Zealand with the boys, at least in my last four fights."

City Kickboxing is frequented by some of New Zealand's best MMA athletes, with the likes of Israel Adesanya, Dan Hooker, Kai Kara France and Shane Young all active fighters in the UFC organisation.

Volkanovski is currently undefeated in the UFC and is coming off a huge knockout win over highly ranked American fighter Chad Mendes last December at UFC 232.

He is confident he has the tools to outclass Aldo and that a UFC title fight isn't too far away.

"I'm definitely getting the title after that - beating him [Jose Aldo] in his home town. You'll be a fool if you don't think I deserve that."

Aldo, who is currently ranked the number one contender in the featherweight class, is rated by many MMA pundits as the greatest of all time in the division.

He was crowned the UFC featherweight champion in 2010 before being dethroned by Irish MMA star Conor McGregor in 2015.

Volkanovski has had an unusual dilemma ahead of his fight with Aldo, with one of his closest friends deciding to change the date of his wedding so the fighter can attend the big day.

"He ended up asking his fiancée and threw it out there [to change the date].

"She was like, 'Ok, I can look,' and I was like, 'What? How good is that?'

"It's unreal. I get to win one of biggest fights in my life right now and then go...be best man at my best mate's wedding."

Volkanovski is a talented world class athlete who started out in rugby league several years ago.

"I was a front rower, a 97 kilogram front rower. Obviously I'm about 5-foot-6 if I'm lucky, and you can imagine I was a pretty heavy set. Now I fight at featherweight."

The Australian star has gone through a huge transformation from his league days. cutting more than 30kg to fight at featherweight. Athletes need to be under 66kg to compete in that division.

"I played a bit of rugby league, I used to wrestle when I was younger. It was soccer, wrestling, rugby league and now MMA.

"I've always been a sort of goer. I'm the type of guy if we are in our 10, 'Give me the ball I'll get us out of here.'"

Volkanovksi's striking and wrestling coach, Frank Hickman, believes his fighter has the motor to outwork Aldo and earn another big win in the UFC.

"You know he is a professional. It's easy for Volkanovski – to work with him - cause he knows what to do. You don't really have to tell him things more than once," said Hickman.

"I see Volk putting a pace on him [Aldo] early, not picking him apart [but] doing what he wants. Once Aldo realises that he is not going to faze [Volkanovski] I think Alex will smell blood and then that will be it.

"Even when I wrestle him, it's hard because he keeps coming and keeps coming. He makes you work and a lot of people don't like that."

Volkanovski earned a $NZ72,000 fight night bonus for his win over Mendes. The Australian featherweight confirmed City Kickboxing trainer Eugene Bareman [Adesanya's coach] will be in his corner in Brazil in May.

He has a record of 19 MMA wins with just one loss, which he suffered back in 2013, and is ranked fourth in the featherweight division.

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The Aussie featherweight predicts he will get a title shot after taking down one of the best in the sport. Source: 1 NEWS