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Curtis Blaydes steps into the cage this weekend as the #3 heavyweight in the world and a substantial favorite over his main event counterpart, Junior dos Santos. Before they square off, Blaydes shared his thoughts on dos Santos as well as the state of the rest of the division.
On dos Santos…
In a match that many have pegged as a modern day version of the pure striker vs the pure wrestler, Blaydes sees this a different way. While he respects the power and skills that dos Santos has when he’s on his feet, he does also think he’s got the ability to stand and bang with the Brazilian.
“I feel like I can box with anybody,” Blaydes said. “But I don’t have to box with anybody because I’m always the better wrestler.”
And in this case, although it might upset a fan or two, Blaydes knows the right thing to do for his fight career and his health.
“I know the fans want the whole ‘just bleed’, stand and bang - I guess I’ve just gotten to the point where I don’t care what fans want. I know that I can win easier if I wrestle,” he said. “I can win on my feet, but why get bruised up? Why potentially break my fist? Why potentially get a broken nose or get stitches when I can take them down and not get hit?”
With his place in the top 5 of the heavyweight division cemented, and his willingness to dip out of that range for an opponent wanning, Blaydes says he knew a bout with dos Santos was right around the corner.
“[Junior dos Santos] was the only logical opponent at the time because I needed a top 5 guy,” he said. “I wasn’t going to take another Justin Willis or Shamil Abdurakhimov, so I was expecting it.”
After a cursory glance of the top 5, this begs the question, what about Cormier? He’s the only guy in the top 5 who hasn’t already fought Blaydes or isn’t the current champ. So why wasn’t he a possibility when Blaydes was planning matchups.
“DC already turned me down, so he wasn’t a viable option,” Blaydes explained. “I’ve called out DC several times and that’s why I don’t do it anymore. People ask why I don’t call out DC anymore, it’s like going up to a hot girl at high school, asking her out 2 or 3 times. I don’t do that. I ask once or twice, if you don’t want it, then okay.”
On Title Shots...
When asked about the prospect of fighting for a title in 2020, Blaydes is hesitant to put any real mental energy into the process. The current choices of the UFC, especially when it comes to some of his teammates has made it so that he tries to keep it out of his ming.
“It’s very easy to block out. I’m not one to waste mental energy on things that are out of my control. That just causes stress. My life has enough stress,” he said. “I have absolutely no idea [how to get a title shot] - it’s the UFC. You got guys like Justin Gaethje, he should be up next for the title shot at 155lbs, but the speculation is that he’s going to get passed over, so rankings don’t really mean a whole lot. I don’t know what you have to do to get a title shot.”
While some might point to style changes, being more exciting, as a way to get a title shot, Blaydes points out that this thinking isn’t fool proof either.
“Guys like Gaethje, on a 3-fight win streak, dropping guys left and right, are about to get passed over,” Blaydes points out. “You never know.”