Curtis Blaydes wants to become UFC heavyweight champion and he doesn’t care who he has to go through to get it.
Fresh off a stunning second-round knockout over Chris Daukaus in the UFC Columbus main event, the 31-year-old contender called his shot with hopes that an interim title fight would come next against either Ciryl Gane or ex-champion Stipe Miocic. Truth be told, Blaydes isn’t overly concerned with who he faces but rather the reward that would hopefully be attached to either one of those fights.
“I view them as the same opportunity,” Blaydes said at the post-fight press conference. “A win over Gane, who was on a hot streak, who was just in a title fight, a win over him should put me as the next title contender. Same thing with Stipe.
“He’s the GOAT, in my opinion. He’s the GOAT of this heavyweight division. He honestly deserved a [championship] rematch a while ago but if he’s willing to risk it against me and I beat him, that’s the same thing to me. It’s a title shot for me would be the next thing for me after beating Gane or Stipe.”
While he may have no stated preference, Blaydes admits that a win over Miocic would mean more to his career just because of the long list of accolades that the Cleveland native has achieved.
Miocic is widely considered the best heavyweight in UFC history as a two-time champion and more title defenses than anybody else to ever hold the belt before or after him.
“I believe he’s the GOAT,” Blaydes said about Miocic. “So a win over him — that’s the one difference — beating Stipe or Gane equals a title shot but beating Stipe I think weighs more heavily historically.
“Cause everyone knows what Stipe has done. They know his resume. So that’s the one difference. Having him on the resume, that would be huge.”
Blaydes actually has past experience against Miocic when he traveled to Ohio to help him prepare for a fight against Gabriel Gonzaga back in 2014. At the time, Blaydes was still four months away from making his professional debut so he was still largely an amateur fighter with a tremendous wrestling background, which was a very helpful tool for Miocic.
“I don’t have any awesome sparring stories,” Blaydes said with a smile. “He was levels and levels above me [back then].”
Now eight years later, Blaydes has earned his spot near the top of the heavyweight division and he’d love to test himself against Miocic even if there’s absolutely no animosity between them.
“I respect him but I believe I’m on his level,” Blaydes said. “I believe I can take him down. I know I can take him down cause I did take him down but I also believe if we get into a striking battle, I can strike with him. I’ve got the footwork. I’ve got the acumen. I believe in my coaches and I know I can hang with anybody on the feet.”
Miocic hasn’t fought since he lost the heavyweight title to Ngannou back in March 2021 and he was initially hoping for an automatic rematch but that didn’t happen.
With almost exactly one year gone since his last appearance, Miocic remains on the sidelines but Blaydes would love to lure him back.
Ultimately whether it’s Miocic, Gane or somebody else, Blaydes just wants to be the other half of an interim title fight, although he understands his desire may not match what the UFC actually decides to do with the division.
“I feel that way but that does not mean the world feels that way,” Blaydes said. “That’s really what matters. What do the fans want to see? I do believe I deserve an interim title shot. I do believe I have the resume and I have the skill sets but we’ll see.”
Perhaps the greatest attribute that Blaydes has right now is patience because there’s just so much uncertainty lurking at heavyweight with Ngannou out of action and both Miocic and Gane coming off losses.
That said, Blaydes is more than willing to wait for the right opponent and the best possible opportunity because he’s got all the time in the world right now.
“I’m not in a rush,” Blaydes said. “I’m not broke and I want what I want. I don’t want to fight guys just to fight guys. I’m trying to get to the belt so whoever that is, whatever route I have to take to get there the fastest, is the route I want. I have a pre-determined route. Whoever I believe is going to me there the fastest and right now I believe it would be Gane but it might be Stipe. If it’s Stipe, I’ll take Stipe.
“I have no doubts in my mind [I’ll be champion]. That’s why I’ve never been in a rush. I knew I’d get there. I’m only 31. I’m going to be here. I’ve got eight more years. I’m going to be here. That belt is going to be mine.”