LAS VEGAS – Curtis Blaydes sees his UFC Fight Night 185 headliner against Derrick Lewis as a fight to determine who will get a title shot.
However, Blaydes (14-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) knows he won’t be the next man to fight the champion – or even the second-to-next fighter to challenge.
With UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic set to take on perennial contender Francis Ngannou at UFC 260 on March 27 – and former UFC light heavyweight Jon Jones expected to fight the winner, Blaydes may be the odd man out.
Despite that likelihood, Blaydes isn’t bothered. He gets it. Jones is likely to get the opportunity for a reason. Jones is one of the best, if not the best, to ever step inside the UFC cage, in Blaydes’ estimation.
“I know that Jon is next. But essentially, on a scale of 1 to 10 (of how upset I am at that), I’m at like a 3,” Blaydes told MMA Junkie at a pre-fight news conference Thursday. “I get it. It’s business. Jon Jones puts asses in the seats. He’s a name. He’s earned it because they did it for (Israel Adesanya), also. Izzy is coming up to fight Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira is like (shrugs). So I get it. It’s cool.”
Blaydes vs. Lewis (24-7 MMA, 15-5 UFC) was initially supposed to take place in November. However, days before the fight, Blaydes tested positive for COVID-19 and withdrew.
“I definitely had the headaches,” Blaydes said. “That was rough. I had the muscle aches and the chills and the fever and a bit of the fatigue, but I didn’t get any of the respiratory issues thankfully. … It was about two weeks. The first week was rough, but the next week was like a precaution. I didn’t want to bring it in the gym and spread it.”
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After he took the proper time to recover and ensure there were no lingering symptoms, Blaydes returned to training. Saturday, he’ll return to the cage, and if he wins, he’ll feel very comfortable being third in the title queue knowing the options that await him.
“If I beat Ngannou (if he is champion when I get my shot), I’ve avenged it,” Blaydes said. “If I beat Stipe, I’ve beaten the heavyweight GOAT. If I beat Jon Jones, I’ve beaten a GOAT. It’s a win-win-win.”
UFC Fight Night 185 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The event streams on ESPN+.