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Alex Volkanovski says it will be business as usual when he returns to defend his featherweight crown next year against top contender Ilia Topuria. 

Volkanovski, who came up short in two opportunities to claim the UFC lightweight title in bouts opposite Islam Makhachev this year, will return to the 145-pound fold he has dominated for the past several years in the UFC 298 headliner on February 17 — and has said he will show the unbeaten 26-year-old Topuria exactly why he is regarded as one of the most dominant champions in UFC history.

“If people are gonna see weakness, if my opponents think that’s weakness … The beautiful thing is, I have mixed emotions about people seeing me like that then I’m like, you know what, I’m glad I did because it was a positive, I believe,” Volkanovski said in an appearance on the Who The Fook Are These Guys podcast, as noted by MMA Fighting.

“A lot of people need to see that. Not just that, people get to see what happens next. I hope these people are seeing it as weakness. Watch me walk through my next opponents. Watch me do what I’m gonna do and shut these people up. Then all of the sudden, I can literally look at these people and be like, ‘Shut your mouth.’ That’s right. I am still that guy.”

To some, though, this might seem easier than done against an opponent of Topuria’s calibre. The Georgian-Spanish fighter is a perfect 6-0 in the UFC and most recently shut out Josh Emmett in June, while before that scored an impressive submission finish against grappling specialist Bryce Mitchell — performances which put him in line for a world title shot.

And despite Volkanovski losing twice this year in another weight division, the Australian says that Topuria is mistaken if he thinks he’s the favourite to win in February.

“This guy thinks he’s the man,” Volkanovski explained. “It’s funny. For me, I’ve always wanted to earn my stripes. Earn these positions, put myself in there, and earn that respect. This guy’s just getting things given to him and probably not even that much but he thinks he’s the man. The beautiful thing about it is I get to teach a kid a lesson.

“Ready to go out there, I’m hoping to teach him a lesson, humble him a little bit, and still let him wake up to himself and then he can bounce back when my time’s done. He needs a bit of humbling. 26, perfect age. He needs the world to see. He maybe needs a bit of embarrassment and snap things into gear and maybe he can one day be a great champion.

“Right now he wants to act like how he’s acting, I’m just gonna teach him a lesson, I’m gonna embarrass him, he’s young enough to bounce back in a positive way. I’ll play teacher the next few months.”