After campaigning hard for a title shot, and not receiving one, Curtis Blaydes is taking a bit of a different approach, as he gets set to face Francis Ngannou this Saturday at UFC Beijing.
Following Blaydes’ vicious, stoppage win over Alistair Overeem this past summer, the explosive wrestler drove hard for a title shot. After all, he had just taken out one of the most decorated heavyweights in MMA history, and in doing so, Blaydes extended his undefeated streak to six. Prior to facing Overeem, the 27-year-old had earned a one-sided, decision win over Mark Hunt, another of the division’s best.
But, as you know, the title shot never came. Daniel Cormier took the heavyweight belt from Stipe Miocic in July, and the plan is (was?) for him to fight Brock Lesnar next. Now Blaydes is scheduled to rematch Ngannou this weekend.
So what’s the plan if Blaydes avenges his TKO loss (via doctor stoppage) to Ngannou on Saturday? Well, while appearing on “The MMA Hour” recently, Blaydes said this (quotes via MMA Fighting):
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Blaydes said. “There’s so many different variables. We previously stated Brock Lesnar’s in the mix, I’ve heard Jon Jones he might bump up to heavyweight so he’s in the mix, we’ve still got Stipe hanging around, he’s in the mix. So it’s a lot of variables.
“I haven’t really tried to project past this fight because I did that previously with the Alistair Overeem fight. I projected, ‘Oh, I beat Alistair, then I should be going after the belt.’ Especially after I watched Derrick Lewis vs. Ngannou, I didn’t think either one of them, after the second round, I didn’t believe either one of them deserved the title shot. Whoever won, I didn’t believe they deserved the title shot, so I was already in my head thinking I’m next. And then I get disappointed because I’m not next, so I just don’t want to do that to myself again. I’m just not going to project like that.”
There you have it, and you can understand why Blaydes is saying this. While, obviously, a win over Ngannou should leave Blaydes knocking on the title shot door, as we know from recent history, that doesn’t mean much.
If Lesnar is, in fact, ready to fight Cormier in early 2019, then you would think that bout will come next. If that happens, then the UFC may look at having Blaydes fight Miocic in the interim. Or, they may want to hold off to see whether Cormier beats Lesnar and then retires, as he’s said is his intention.
First things first, however, and that’s defeating Ngannou.