Let’s get something straight.
I am by no means superstitious. Nor am I exactly a “God-fearing man” (it’s simply not in my nature).
But when it comes to professional sports, brother… you best believe I bow down to a higher power. And the higher power I’m trembling before today is the UFC Cover Curse.
Within a month of being announced as cover athletes for EA Sports’ UFC 5, both Israel Adesanya (deluxe edition) and Valentina Shevchenko (standard edition) have experienced crucial career losses — and in consecutive weeks, no less.
Adesanya ceded the middleweight throne to Sean Strickland at UFC 293 (Sydney), one of the greatest upsets in MMA history; while Shevchenko failed to reclaim her flyweight belt from Alexa Grasso at UFC Noche due to a controversial split-draw decision, despite having logged enough in the eyes of fans and pundits alike to eek the win.
Now, the only UFC 5 cover athlete who remains unscathed is Australia’s own featherweight champion, former pound-for-pound king, and future Hall of Famer: Alexander Volkanovski.
Volkanovski graces this year’s standard edition cover alongside Shevchenko, and while we’re more than confident in the homegrown battler’s impressively well-rounded abilities, the evidence outlined below has got us feeling a little on edge about our favourite fighter.
The UFC Cover Curse: A Complete Timeline
Jon Jones & Alexander Gustafsson
Release Date: June 17, 2014
These light-heavyweight legends earned their console spotlight after an epic showdown for the title at UFC 165. But shortly after, misfortune would fall upon both.
Alexander Gustafsson would experience a two-fight skid against Anthony Johnson (via TKO) and then Daniel Cormier at UFC 192, once again falling short of winning the light-heavyweight belt on the latter occasion.
From the moment UFC hit shelves to the end of his career, the Swedish brawler went 2-6.
Jon Jones, on the other hand, faced different obstacles. Of the self-imposed variety, as per his reputation.
While he is still yet to taste (proper) defeat beyond technicalities, six months after the release of UFC, Jones would fail the first of four major drug tests; although the man wouldn’t face a hard ban from competition until 2017.
UFC 2 (2016)
Ronda Rousey & Conor McGregor
Release Date: March 15, 2016
This was perhaps one of the most dramatic instances of the EA Sports UFC Cover Curse.
Long before it was actually released, Ronda Rousey was unveiled as one of the two fighters fronting the video game on November 13, 2015. That very weekend, the previously undefeated pioneer of women’s MMA and bantamweight champion would be KO’d at Melbourne’s UFC 193 by Holly Holm in yet another historic upset, losing the title in the process.
A year later, and months after UFC 2 was in circulation, Rousey would return in an attempt to reclaim said title against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207. In less than 48 seconds, Nunes would TKO her in a scarily dominant fashion, effectively fast-tracking her retirement from MMA altogether.
Conor McGregor would suffer to a far lesser degree, losing to Nate Diaz via submission (rear-naked choke) at UFC 196 after he was announced as a cover athlete. Although this would only mark the beginning of something far more dire for the Notorious one.
UFC 3 (2018)
Release Date: February 2, 2018
At this stage, Conor McGregor had avenged his loss against Nate Diaz at UFC 202, won the lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 to become the promotion’s first two-division champion, and banked an absolute killing by stepping into the boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
This was, by all accounts, the very peak of McGregor fever. So how did the UFC Cover Curse derail the hype train?
The same year UFC 3 hit shelves, the fightin’ Irishman would be submitted by Khabib Nurmagomedov at an exceedingly chaotic UFC 229, punctuating a bitter rivalry that also involved criminal charges for the former.
Since then, Conor McGregor has been 1-3, and sustained a famously career-threatening broken leg during his Dustin Poirier trilogy fight at UFC 264. And regardless of what his most loyal fans might say, it would appear the era of McGregor is over (at least within the Octagon).
UFC 4 (2020)
Jorge Masvidal & Israel Adesanya
Release Date: August 14, 2020
Jorge Masvidal had quite the year in 2019: a KO victory against Darren Till after his two-year break, the fastest knockout in UFC history with a flying knee to Ben Askren’s face, and securing the BMF belt against Nate Diaz via TKO at UFC 244.
The same day he was announced as a cover athlete, however, “Gamebred” failed to capture the welterweight championship from Kamaru Usman. In fact, Nate Diaz would mark his final career win; enduring a four-fight skid (Usman x 2, Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns) prior to his eventual retirement.
Similar to Conor McGregor and UFC 2, Israel Adesanya somehow managed to mitigate the damage.
“The Last Stylebender” actually won against Paulo Costa in the same year UFC 4 debuted, but would face his first loss in MMA a few months later during his light-heavyweight experiment against Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259.
Adesanya would also later be TKO’d by career nemesis Alex Pereira at UFC 281 to relinquish the middleweight title, though not before racking up three more successful title defences.
Who will Alexander Volkanovski fight next?
After securing a dominant TKO victory against interim champ Yair Rodriguez to unify the featherweight title at UFC 290 (International Fight Week 2023), the world is wondering who Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski will face in his next fight.
Not only has “The Great” barely sustained any serious damage in each of his fights post-Brian Ortega (UFC 266) — not even during his encounter with lightweight champion Islam Makhachev at UFC 284; wherein he only narrowly missed out on becoming a two-division champion — Volk has soundly demonstrated time and time again that he’s in a league of his own.
What makes the prospect of his return even tastier is the fact that UFC President Dana White has publicly given Alexander Volkanovski carte blanche to pick his own bouts.
“Volk looked incredible. He’s an absolute freak,” said White.
“He’s at one of those places in his career now where whatever he wants to do, what are we gonna say? He’s proven himself a million times. So whatever he wants to do, we go with it, yeah.”
After he’s fully recovered from surgery for a chipped bone in his left elbow, Alexander Volkanovski will either re-attempt to obtain two-division glory with a rematch against lightweight king Islam Makhachev or shut down the mouthy #6 featherweight contender Ilia Topuria.
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