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Curtis Blaydes admits he’s a ‘pessimist’ when it comes to earning a UFC title shot: ‘I don’t expect it to be easy’

UFC Fight Night: Blaydes v Daukaus Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Curtis Blaydes is very realistic when it comes to his spot in the heavyweight rankings and what it will take to eventually earn a shot at UFC gold.

Despite consistently competing against top-10 ranked competition, the 31-year-old contender is rarely mentioned in the title conversation, even with a 6-1 record in his past seven fights including three knockouts along the way. While he does have a pair of losses to current UFC champ Francis Ngannou in previous fights, Blaydes still didn’t receive much consideration after the promotion started hinting an interim title fight taking place in 2022.

That might irritate a lot of fighters, but don’t count Blaydes among them.

“Maybe it’s because I’m a pessimist, but I don’t expect it to be easy,” Blaydes said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “I expect it to be hard. Anything worth having is going to be hard. Getting a title shot is worth having, so I expect it to be a long, hard road, and this is part of that road.”

There’s a long list of names from the past who have gotten so wrapped up in becoming champion that it became a distraction to the task directly in front of them.

With a showdown scheduled against Tom Aspinall in the UFC London main event on Saturday, Blaydes refuses to walk down that same road, which is why he’s just worried about getting a win with the knowledge that a title fight is almost certainly not next for him.

“Maybe it’s the wrestling background,” Blaydes said. “I’m used to going to a tournament at 8 a.m. and you don’t know what your seed is going to be. You might be the No. 1 seed, the No. 5 seed, the No. 16 seed. And eventually, you hope to be in the finals, and if it’s four rounds, eventually you’re going to have to go against a good guy. That’s how I think about this. It’s just one extra long tournament. Eventually, along the way, you’re going to have to fight good guys.

“I never understood, especially in boxing, people avoid tough fights. Because eventually if you want to be the best, all your opponents are going to be tough. Like I’m in the top five, I’ve been in the top five since 2018. There are no easy fights. It’s just what I expect. I expect Aspinall, and after this, I expect the winner of [Tai] Tuivasa and [Ciryl] Gane. After that, I expect most likely the interim title against either the winner of Stipe [Miocic] vs. Jon Jones.”

That perspective has helped Blaydes stay realistic with his expectations while quietly currying favor with the UFC, because the promotion has learned he’s a guy who will always step up when needed.

The latest example comes in his next fight as Blaydes travels to London to face Aspinall in his home country with a raucous crowd that will definitely give the former college wrestler a rude welcome.

“I don’t think I’ve ever turned down a fight,” Blaydes said. “I get an opponent, I’m like OK. With the UFC, turning down fights isn’t a good idea. That starts to put you in a bad light. It never even crossed my mind. I don’t care. I just wanted a top-five guy. I knew it had to be Aspinall, Gane, or Tuivasa — I would have been happy with any one of them. I would have gone back to Australia to fight Tuivasa. I would have gone to France to fight Gane. It doesn’t matter.

“People who think the venue actually has a factor on the outcome of the fight, I don’t know what to tell you besides I think you’re wrong. I don’t think it matters at all. It’s who’s going to be able to implement their game plan first and most effectively, and that doesn’t have anything to do with the venue to me.”

Blaydes said he actually respects Aspinall for taking the fight against him because there’s a huge reward if he wins, but there’s also an inherent risk that goes along with facing a top-tier heavyweight who arguably has the best wrestling in the entire division.

The result could be Aspinall being planted on his back, eating punches from a ferocious ground-and-pound specialist like Blaydes, and there’s no amount of cheering that will help him out of that situation.

“This will be a test,” Blaydes said. “I look forward to that. I look forward to proving to the world that I’m not just taking down bums. I can take down guys who are skilled also, and I believe he’s skilled, but I believe I will be able to take him down when I want to.”

Blaydes also relishes the chance to play spoiler in Aspinall’s home country, because that’s a special kind of feeling that can’t be duplicated anywhere else.

Rather than avoid an unenviable situation, Blaydes plans to make the most out of the opportunity and send the London crowd home disappointed.

“That’s the pettiness in me,” Blaydes said. “I like to go somewhere else and beat the person everyone wants to win. I get a rush out of that.”

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