To say Chris Curtis paid the price on his road to a long awaited shot in the UFC would be an understatement, but he certainly made the most of his opportunity when the time came.
Curtis made the walk to the hallowed octagon in his 35th professional fight and went on to knock out Phil Hawes in the first round of their preliminary card matchup at UFC 268. “The Action Man” delivered the career highlight inside Madison Square Garden in New York, one of the biggest cards of the year.
Following his sixth straight win, Curtis spoke with members of the media and hoped to secure a Performance of the Night bonus because he was “hilariously broke.” The 34-year-old appeared on Wednesday’s edition of The MMA Hour to explain his financial status in greater detail.
“I’m lucky because I live with my manager and I’m not gonna be homeless,” Curtis said. “Hilariously broke to me is... there was $10 in my bank account because we had some expenses come up before that. Fighting on the regional scene, and getting paid well on the regional scene doesn’t go as far as you think once you take out fees, taxes, management, all of that stuff.
“Going into that UFC fight, the only reason I survived those three weeks was because Mick Maynard took care of me for weighing in. That saved me because I had nothing. After that, I was down to like $10 in my bank account because I was trying to catch up on bills and keep everything afloat. So, yeah, you go into a UFC fight with $10 in your bank account is rough.”
Curtis thought his octagon debut would take place on just over a day’s notice at UFC Vegas 39 after successfully weighing in for the bout after agreeing to replace Deron Winn. As MMA Fighting first reported, Hawes declined the last second switch and the bout never happened.
The bad luck continued on for Curtis, who many believed should have gotten his UFC opportunity years ago — most notably following a June 2018 finish on Dana White’s Contender Series where he was passed over for a contract.
“The worst part about that wasn’t that it was cancelled, it’s that I weighed in, and then it was cancelled,” Curtis said of the first booking with Hawes being off the card. “If I had arrived at the building and they told me the fight’s off, I’d [think] that sucks, I expected this to happen, but to get in, to weigh-in and everything, like, it’s happening. Once you weigh-in, touch that scale, it is on, right?
“Then to have it cancelled, I was absolutely furious. Disbelief couldn’t even describe it. Like, I had to have killed a pope in a past life. Something had to have happened. I did something terrible in a past life and I’m experiencing karma.”
There were other opportunities for Curtis with regional promotions as well as the PFL, where he spent a season and made it to the playoffs before losing to Magomed Magomedkerimov, retiring from the sport, calling off that retirement minutes later and then knocked out by Ray Cooper in October 2019.
Curtis had the opportunity to fight Austin Vanderford nearly a year prior to his octagon debut at Bellator 251, but the fight was scratched after Curtis tested positive for COVID-19. In the end, despite being sick on his couch “for two weeks,” it turned out to be a long-term blessing in disguise.
“My goal was to always be in the UFC,” Curtis said. “I was worried about PFL messing that chance up and with Bellator, I was like, ‘I’m really broke right now, maybe I should just fight in Bellator.’ I was concerned that if anything went wrong, I wouldn’t get this UFC opportunity.
“I decided to do it, go with it, see what happens, and then I get COVID for the second time. At this point, the universe was telling me to stay on track. No detours, no distractions, just stay on track.”