Ilia Topuria, UFC's first Spanish world champion. GETTY IMAGES

Ilia Topuria, "El Matador", knocked out Australian Volkanovski to claim the featherweight title and make history for Spain in the UFC. The Spanish-Georgian fighter knocked out his opponent in the second round in Los Angeles to fulfil his dream of becoming a world champion.

Topuria knocked out Australia's Alexander Volkanovski on Saturday night to claim the featherweight title and become the first Spanish fighter to win a UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) world belt. 

The fighter, who also holds Georgian citizenship, knocked out Volkanovski in the second round of the main event at UFC 298 in Anaheim, California. The event took place in front of nearly 20,000 enthusiastic fans, including billionaire Mark Zuckerberg.

Unbeaten in 15 fights, "El Matador" broke the stranglehold that 35-year-old Volkanovski had on the UFC's 145-pound (67.5kg) featherweight division. The UFC is the leading promoter of mixed martial arts (MMA) in the United States.

"I feel so lucky. People will tell you it can't be done (...) but if you believe in yourself, work tirelessly and believe, everything is possible," said Topuria, wrapped in a flag emblazoned with the colours of Spain and Georgia, as quoted by AFP.

After his brilliant victory, Topouria went one step further. In the same octagon at the Honda Center, he challenged Conor McGregor, the most popular figure in the UFC, to a fight in Spain, where the new champion has been living since 2012.

"Conor McGregor, if you've got any balls left, I'll be waiting for you in Spain," said Topuria, emboldened by his resounding victory over Volkanovski.

Topuria wants UFC to become big in Spain. GETTY IMAGES
Topuria wants UFC to become big in Spain. GETTY IMAGES

Nicknamed 'The Great', the Australian is one of the UFC's biggest stars of all time and has defended his featherweight title five times. Topouria challenged him and was confident throughout the build-up. 

On his way to the cage, he was accompanied by Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg, a martial arts enthusiast. He wore the same outfit as members of the Australian's team.

Once the punches started, however, Volkanovski had no answer to Topuria's ambition, who made good on his promise to knock him out with a minute and a half to go in the second of five rounds. He gave him no respite. The Spanish-Georgian was far superior. 

He was very bold and unleashed a devastating combination of punches, culminating in a right hook to the chin and another left hook to the face that sent him to the canvas. There was nothing that could be done by the man who had been the true dominator of the division until that Saturday could do about it. 

There was no stopping Volkanovski as he collapsed and Topuria pounced on him. The fight was stopped and the fighter still couldn't believe he had won and made history for Spain.

The defeated Australian, however, was in no mood to give up. "Well done, he got me. Obviously he's a great puncher. We knew that already". And he said, before mentioning a possible rematch. "I've been champion in this division for a long time. He always talks about Spain. Maybe we'll have a rematch there," he said. 

This is a historic event for Spain as a country. It is a country with a great tradition in boxing, but not in mixed martial arts and with very little influence from the UFC.

Topuria couldn't believe his triumph in the ring in Anaheim. GETTY IMAGES
Topuria couldn't believe his triumph in the ring in Anaheim. GETTY IMAGES

Topuria's fight had raised huge expectations in Spain. The country welcomed him and his family in 2012, eagerly anticipating the possibility of having a world champion in another sport. 

Prior to the event, the fighter had received messages of support from the country's greats, from Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz to Andrés Iniesta, Marc Márquez, Carolina Marín and Carlos Sainz.

Born in the German town of Halle in 1997, the sport and Spanish fans have long since embraced this globetrotting fighter. It was there that he first came into contact with martial arts through Greco-Roman wrestling. At an early age he moved to Georgia, where wrestling is one of the most popular sports. 

From there he moved to Spain, settling in the city of Alicante in 2012. There, he began to practice mixed martial arts at the Climent Club gym. Its founders, Argentine brothers Jorge and Agustín Climent, have since guided the fighter on his way to the world title he won in Anaheim on Saturday. They were there in his corner to witness and celebrate.