Australian featherweight Alexander Volkanovski has revealed he could have lost his leg after a nasty blood infection saw him rushed to hospital in Chile while en route back to Australia.
Having just defeated Brazilian Jose Aldo at UFC 237 in Rio de Janeiro in what he describes as the most clinical performance of his career, Volkanovski ignored the warning signs of what was to come and instead basked in the glory of his impressive triumph.
But with symptoms of swelling and redness around his foot and ankle deteriorating into dizziness and a surge in body temperature once his journey home was underway, Volkanovski's team thankfully sought urgent medical advice and rushed him to hospital.
"I guess it was too hard to tell because I was injured because of the trauma from the kicks, and that sort of threw me off," Volkanovski told ESPN of the blood infection that saw him wind up in a Santiago hospital. "But once I went on the plane it went crazy and obviously I just started feeling really crook [sick]. Then I went on the next flight and that's when it really hit me; I had 40+ degree temperatures, it was nasty stuff. I was delirious by then and didn't really know what was going on, but I was like 'get me a doctor, I need a doctor'. So they did that and, yeah, it was pretty serious, the antibiotics didn't work straight away; we were really worried about it hitting my tendons and bones because it was very close, once it does that you can have problems.
"So we were pretty lucky the plane stopped in Chile rather than if I'd got on the next flight. Within a couple of hours I would have had to tell them we've got to turn this flight around, and by then the damage would have been done and I could have lost the leg, lose your life. That stuff's very, very serious, but it didn't get to that stage. We got it just at the right time; we left it too long where it rocked me so much, but we got in just in time for it not to do serious damage."
Well on the road to recovery back at home in Australia, Volkanovksi has had time to reflect on his unanimous decision victory over Aldo -- which will almost certainly now see him fight the winner of the UFC 240 showdown between Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar -- and the dominant fashion in which it came.
In controlling the fight from start to finish, Volkanovski felt like he was one step ahead of Aldo throughout and that stopped him from taking any real punishment at the hands of the Brazilian. Ironically, it was Volkanovski's repeated leg kicks on Aldo that led to the Australian's sudden turn in health.
"We obviously prepared well, planned well and made a game plan that we executed well as well," Volkanovski said. "But going in, obviously Aldo's been one of the best for a long time, a lot of people said he's been the best striker; but the game's evolving and things that he's done so well for so many years, we were able to use that against him.
"He's very good with his counters; he's very good at flipping; he's very good at adjusting and always has a really good base; always powerful. But because of these things, all my fakes and all the little things that I was doing just really threw him off because he was too busy adjusting and worrying about what was coming so he could counter.
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Update: Alex's condition is stable, he is responding well to the treatment. As a precaution, he will remain under supervision at the hospital and will be re-assessed in 48hrs to ensure the infection is completely under control before given any clearance to travel home. Thank you to everyone for all the messages of support 🙏🏽
"All the little things like that just made him really, I wouldn't say uncomfortable, but it just made him realise as the fight was going that he couldn't do anything. I was just shutting him down and he never knew when I was coming in and things like that.
"Before he knew it, the fight was getting away from him because he didn't know what to do; not even he knew what was going on. So that's what I mean by the game's evolving; I was throwing things at him that he'd never seen before and I just shut him down."
While frustrated by the timing of the announcement that Holloway will take on Edgar in July -- it came just a couple of days after the Australian's victory in Rio -- Volkanovski bears no ill-will to either fighter and is fully prepared to battle the victor whomever it might be.
That decision also looks to have increased the likelihood of Volkanovski fighting on the same card as the much-anticipated Rob Whittaker-Israel Adesanya middleweight title fight, rumoured to be in the works for the east coast of Australia in November.
"Yeah, definitely," Volkanovski replied when asked whether he was confident that scenario would play out. "Israel Adesanya, a training partner of mine, he's actually pushing for that to happen as well. Obviously to have Max and myself on that card, as well as Izzy and Rob Whittaker, you can imagine how big [that would be] for pay-per-views, we're talking serious money for them, so that's something they want. I think the UFC want that, too. It's going to be massive this side of the world.
"We were talking to the match-makers and that's their plans, they said 'look obviously we need to see what happens with Max and Frankie, but we still would love to have Alex fight Max or whoever the winner is later this year on that card in Australia. So that's what we're looking for. And obviously Alex is the No. 1 contender, he's next in line'."
Having resumed some "light" strength training following his health scare, Volkanovski will look to slowly build up his workload over the coming weeks. But he has a far more immediate role to attend to: Serving as the best man for the wedding that was moved to accommodate his UFC 237 triumph.
"I'm fitting into my clothes already, I've done well with that," he told ESPN. "I was worried I wouldn't fit into them after I'd been stuck in a hospital bed but the weight has come off pretty quick. I was with him [the groom] last night, we got a belt and our shoes ready for the suit, so not long now. And by then I'll be off the antibiotics so I can enjoy a few drinks, and some family time. It's going to be good."