Ilia Topuria steals UFC belt, Alexander Volkanovski mocks him with ‘old man’ getup

Ilia Topuria did everything possible to get under Alexander Volkanovski’s skin at the UFC 298 pre-fight press conference. But his attempts seemed to fall on deaf ears – and that’s not because the featherweight champ dressed like he needed hearing aids.

Playing into the narrative that age is catching up, Volkanovski “hobbled” out on stage in Anaheim, Calif., dressed like his grandfather, complete with a cardigan, a chain hanging from his bifocal glasses and a newsboy cap to top it off.

Volkanovski said he was having a bit of fun following weeks of questions about his validity as champion at 35, which seems to be the cutoff for fighters finding success in many of the smaller weight classes.

“Just having a bit of fun with it,” he said. “You’ve got to do it, for the people as well. Everyone appreciated the outfit, so I wanted to do it in person.”

Topuria didn’t get the memo about having fun, because he was all about business, though much of what he said was drowned out by a loud chorus of boos from the crowd. That led to Topuria lashing out at the audience, then turning his attention back to Volkanovski Sr.

“Shut the f*** up! Shut up,” Topuria shouted. “You see how you can dress? You already know what’s going to happen. You just came ready for your retirement. Look how you look as an old man.”

Again and again, Topuria tried to verbally assault Volkanovski, but the reigning UFC featherweight king just refused to play into his trash talk. When that didn’t work, Topuria leaned over the table and snatched the UFC belt sitting in front of Volkanovski, which finally got him to jump out of his seat.

“Stand up and do something,” Topuria said. “Humble me. I’m right here in front of you. Do something.”

The belt eventually returned to its rightful owner, but even after that brief altercation, Volkanovski still brushed it off. Then he delivered a message to Topuria.

“You might as well take advantage of it now,” Volkanovski said to Topuria. “You’re never going to see it again. Not until I teach you a lesson. Maybe one day you can be a great champion. I’m going to kick your ass first, you’ll learn your lesson, and maybe you can bounce back after that.

“Until then, get your hands off my belt.”

Of course, Topuria stealing the title belt is a page taken right out of Conor McGregor’s playbook; the Irish star did the same to Jose Aldo when he was about to fight for the UFC featherweight title. On that night, an irate Aldo jumped out of his seat and tried to get at McGregor.

Volkanovski didn’t really even lunge for the belt, much less try to tackle Topuria for stealing it. He just continued to laugh off the situation, even faking falling asleep while Topuria was talking.

“Conor McGregor wannabe huh? How about this bloke?” Volkanovski said. “I think this old man needs to teach this young fella a lesson.”

Despite the simmering tensions between them, the UFC 298 fighters faced off on stage without incident and even shared a handshake before separating.

The talking is now nearly done as Volkanovski prepares to defend his featherweight title for the sixth consecutive time, which puts him only one away from tying Aldo’s all-time record at 145 pounds.

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