Curtis Blaydes believes whole-heartedly in the adage, “Good things come to those who wait.” Blaydes has competed in the UFC since 2016 and is 10-3 in the promotion.
On Saturday (7 p.m. ET on ESPN) in Columbus, Ohio, when he fights Chris Daukaus, it will be the fourth time in his last five bouts he’s been in the main event. He’s ranked fourth in what is arguably the deepest heavyweight division the UFC has ever had.
Champion Francis Ngannou, as well as former champion Stipe Miocic, former interim champion Ciryl Gane, hard-hitting Tai Tuivasa, fast-rising Tom Aspinall and KO King Derrick Lewis headline what suddenly is a deep and talented weight class.
The real money in the UFC lies in fighting for, and winning, a title. Blaydes knows that, and despite being so highly ranked for so long with so many elite wins, he’s never fought for the championship.
But Blaydes, who turned 31 last month, isn’t worried about it. His time, he said, will come.
“I have always said I’m not in a hurry because I’m going to be here for a long time,” Blaydes told Yahoo Sports. “I have seven, eight more years at least. I’m still improving, still getting better, still loving what I do.
“I’m not broke. I’m doing good [financially]. My daughter is my only dependent. I don’t live a flashy lifestyle. I’m comfortable. So I can wait [for a title shot]. I know eventually it’s going to come. I’m a patient guy and the one thing you can tell by paying attention to how they do business is, if you keep winning, sooner or later you’ll get there.”
Blaydes is 15-3 with a no-contest, which was originally a win by first-round KO that was overturned when he committed the horrible crime of testing positive for marijuana after a 2017 bout with Adam Milstead.
He’s only lost to two men, Ngannou twice and Lewis, and in the fight against Lewis, he was in control until being caught with a huge punch in the second round.
Blaydes is asked about that fight a lot, but he just shrugs it off. He’s no fan of losing, but he did pretty much what he set out to do and was derailed by one mistake.
He came back from the loss to Lewis by defeating Jairzinho Rozenstruik and said he never was bothered much by it.
“That [Rozenstruik] fight might have validated me to everyone else, but me and my coaches, we knew,” Blaydes said. “A lot of people were all excited about the Lewis fight, but if you actually watched that fight, that first round, I owned him. I was way faster, way more dynamic, way better in every way. I made a mistake. I didn’t take an angle for an attempt at a takedown and paid the price.”
Blaydes wasn’t irate at himself and he didn’t avoid the bout. He quickly went with his coaches to watch the video and see what went wrong.
He made a mistake that cost him a win and probably a title shot, but he didn’t let it tear him down and break his confidence.
“I was calm even right after,” Blaydes said. “It didn’t discourage me. I wasn’t like, ‘Damn! I can’t do this.’ No, not at all. I was sad I lost, but it wasn’t because of [a lack of] skill. We knew I had the skills to beat guys like Jairzinho and guys like Derrick Lewis.”
He’ll need a win over the ninth-ranked Daukaus to keep his place in line. Daukaus himself is coming off a first-round KO loss to Lewis, but he’d won four in a row in the UFC before that, all by KO.
He’s also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a skill he has rarely shown in MMA because, in Daukaus’ words, “I love punching people in the face.”
Blaydes has been around long enough to know what to do against someone with that kind of ability. He stopped Aleksei Oleinik in 2017 at UFC 217 in New York and Oleinik has long been one of the best heavyweight submission artists in MMA.
Blaydes said that though he didn’t change his preparation for Daukaus, his training includes 12 hours a week of jiu-jitsu. If somehow the fight turns into a grappling match, Blaydes will be ready.
“I’m not a black belt, but in MMA, the difference between a black belt and white belt is just a few elbows,” Blaydes said. “He’s talented on the feet. That’s undeniable. His hands are going to be his biggest issue for me.
“But if the takedown is there, I’ll go for it. Like I said, my game plan is not adjusted for anyone. I took Aleksei Oleinik down four or five times a couple of years ago. I feel confident in what I can do and until he proves me wrong, I’m going to stick with it.”