UFC Hosts 30th Anniversary Fighter Q&A With Oceania’s Biggest Stars

In advance of tonight’s highly anticipated showdown between Dagestan’s freshly crowned lightweight champion Islam Makhachev and pound-for-pound king Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski at UFC 284 in Perth, Australia, the promotion released a streamable Q&A session with guest stars Robert Whittaker, Tai Tuivasa, Kai Kara-France and Kyle Noke.

“This is absolutely unbelievable — you guys are absolutely killing it with the energy,” Whittaker said, grinning, as he addressed the cheering crowd of fellow Australians at the event. “The turnout would have to be one of the loudest and biggest turnouts I’ve seen for a fight. The support for the open workouts, for the weigh-ins, for the Q&As […] you guys are killing it.”

Later, he good-naturedly apologized for his absence from the card itself, acknowledging those in the audience who’d bought tickets in hopes of seeing him fight. “I’m sorry!” He offered a self-deprecating chuckle. “It wasn’t my fault this time. Enjoy the show, but I’ll still be there, I’m still here, I’m in Perth! But my apologies.”

“I still owe Perth a fight,” Whittaker added, upon being prodded by a grinning audience member who wanted to know when the middleweight contender would bring the belt back to Perth. “I am here, I’m doing as much as I can, but the answer is as soon as possible. My direction is always toward the gold — so as soon as possible.”

Australia’s heavyweight star Tai Tuivasa, clearly elated to be back home, upon his introduction, simply bellowed, “Let’s f**king party!”

When asked by a fan where the afterparty would be on Saturday, Tuisvasa gave a sidelong grin. “I gotta check the Instagram,” he said. “The Lookout, that’s where I’ll be at!”

New Zealand’s Kai Kara-France, meanwhile, admitted to feeling “gutted” that he couldn’t be a part of the UFC 284 card due to injury, but was quick to add how thrilled he was simply to be present. “This is exciting, just being a part of this,” the flyweight contender enthused. “I’m just privileged to represent you guys on the world stage.”

Kyle Noke, 42, described as the “veteran statesman” of the crew with a 33-fight career prior to retirement, was deeply pleased with the positive energy of the event as a whole. “The energy’s been awesome, you know? It’s great to be back here — it makes me want to fight again. I know I’m too old now, too busted up, but the crowd’s been phenomenal, so that’s good.”

When asked for predictions on which way the main event would go, Noke predicted a win from Volkanovski in the third round, “hopefully by submission.” Kara-France similarly predicted a finish for Volk in the third round.

“I don’t know,” admitted Tuivasa after putting in a third vote for Volkanovski. “I just hope I can see straight by the time comes around.”

“You’re gonna miss it for sure,” Whittaker ribbed the heavyweight, laughing. “It’s a hard test,” he added, regarding the matchup for the lightweight belt. “You can see the size difference when they were up here, after they hydrated a little bit […] There’s a quite significant muscle density advantage and height difference. It’s gonna be a hard fight for both guys.”

He went on to point out that the biggest question of the evening would be how good Makhachev truly is. The middleweight star compared Makhachev to teammate and countryman Khabib, who was similarly tested by a multitude of different fighters with formidable defenses to his wrestling — and who still retired undefeated.

“So Volk in round one,” concluded Whittaker with a laugh.

Watch footage of the full Q&A session below.


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