Curtis Blaydes cemented himself as one of the top contenders in the UFC heavyweight division at UFC 225 with a dominant and brutal TKO win over Alistair Overeem. Post-win, Blaydes set the record straight. It’s title shot or bust for the No. 2 ranked fighter in the division. In an exclusive interview with BJPenn.com, Blaydes dished on this and much more. Check it out below!
First off, can you recap the win over Alistair Overeem? How was the camp preparation, how did you feel in-cage and how did it feel post-fight once the win had sunk in?
“The camp preparation is always the same for me, I don’t like to stray away from my routine for any one opponent.” Blaydes said, “Going into the fight I was pretty confident in myself and my training I had put in with my coaches. I was confident I could get the takedown and confident I had the better cardio. I knew if I stuck to the gameplan that I would get the win. I go with the flow, I knew I was winning [leading up to the stoppage] and I knew if I kept landing my shots that he would fade.”
Now that the dust has settled, it’s clear you’re looking for a title shot next. When would you like to get that opportunity against the winner of Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier?
“I know usually after title fights the champions usually get a break. I have no problem with that. I was hoping I can get on the New Year’s Eve card in Vegas. That’s always a big card and I don’t think there’s anything better than a heavyweight title fight pegged as the headliner for a big event like that.”
Per Dana White; you were briefly tied to a fight in the UFC’s debut event in Moscow, Russia against Alexander Volkov. From your perspective, what happened to the purposed matchup and why do you feel like that may not be the proper route for your career at the moment?
“Well, the proposed matchup against Volkov was slated for September 15th and I had some issues with that because 1) I’m ranked higher than he is so I don’t feel like I should have to go to his home and fight him. I already did that for Mark Hunt. I took that fight because Mark Hunt is a legend. Alexander Volkov isn’t a legend. 2) I hurt my knee when Alistair went for a heel-hook at the end of the first round and I’m still recovering from that. I’m not going into any fight that would force me to rush my body back and lose because my body can’t move the way I need it to and I knew I wouldn’t be ready by September 15th. I won’t even be able to start sparring at the earliest til the beginning of August.”
UFC 226 is featuring a super-fight between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier. This is a matchup you’re sure to be tuned into as you’ve set yourself up to potentially face off against the winner. Between Miocic and Cormier, who do you think you match up better against?
“I don’t have a preference. They’re different matchups but they both offer difficult challenges. I have a height advantage over DC but he’s been going against taller guys his entire career so I don’t think that’s much of a problem for him. Stipe, the only advantage I have over him is I’m the heavier man and I’m more athletic than he is. But they both have really good hands, really good wrestling, and good cardio. They’re veterans. I can’t really say one matchup is easier than the other.”
The lone loss in your career came to Francis Ngannou, a fight that was stopped in-between rounds by the cage side doctor. You’ve recently come out and said that you’d love to get that fight back. How do you feel a rematch between you and Francis plays out and what did you make of Ngannou’s fight with Stipe?
“To answer the first part of your question, I believe I would beat him in dominant fashion. He’s probably the easiest matchup out of the top 5 guys because he’s the most one dimensional. Everyone else has a pretty well-rounded game. He has absolutely no wrestling and I don’t believe he’s ever going to get good enough wrestling to ever be a threat or stop me from getting a takedown. My hands have gotten so much better since we fought. I think my striking technique is better than his. He just swings really hard and fast. He doesn’t have the best footwork and he certainly doesn’t have the best cardio which was exploited in the Stipe fight. All he had to do was take him down and rack up points. I can do exactly what Stipe did, except better. I’m bigger, heavier and a more explosive wrestler than Stipe is.”
Everybody has their opinion on former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy’s move over to MMA. Are you opposed to him getting the opportunity and what do you think his chances are of making a successful jump into the UFC’s Heavyweight Division?
“I feel its wrong. He shouldn’t be allowed to fight. He shouldn’t even be allowed in an MMA gym, period. The basis of MMA is respect and he clearly doesn’t have that. Especially not for women after what he did to his girlfriend or ex-fiance. I don’t see how he can even get licensed to fight. I don’t see how he can pass the prerequisites to get a license. I definitely don’t think he should have been given an opportunity to get a contract, let alone actually be one of the ones to receive it. As a fighter? I don’t know. It was a really fast fight so I don’t know anything about his skill set. I know he probably doesn’t have wrestling. I could see him probably being really heavy-handed and probably a really good athlete but anything other than that is sort of a mystery.”
Rumors are floating that Brock Lesnar is interested in making a comeback to the UFC and a matchup between him and Jon Jones is being thrown out there. What do you make of Brock’s potential return to MMA and would you like to throw your name in the hat of potential opponents?
“I think Brock Lesnar is irrelevant. He hasn’t fought in years and even when he did fight he wasn’t a real fighter. He has zero hands. Literally zero striking. All he has is a half-assed jab and no I don’t want to fight Brock Lesnar. He isn’t worth anything and he gives me no chance to improve my ranking. Sure, the fans would like it but I’m not really worried about that. I’m more interested in improving my ranking, getting that belt, and getting my money.”
I know you stated that you’ve love to get your awaited title shot on the New Year’s Eve card. But if that shot doesn’t come and you’re facing being sidelined until early to mid-2019, are you willing to sit out and wait for that title shot if that’s what it takes?
“I mean, yeah but it would bother me but I have to have a chat with the bosses upstairs and see what they have to say. If they tell me I have to wait and do a number one contender fight then that’s what I’ll do. I only plan on fighting once more this year, regardless. I put my name in the hat after UFC 225. I haven’t spoken directly to any of the matchmakers or Dana White but we’ll probably engage a lot more after UFC 226. I’ll be in attendance for UFC 226. Watching closely.”
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 7/1/2018