The list of heavyweights separating Curtis Blaydes from a title shot isn’t long and he doesn’t expect a potential newcomer to the division to ruin his aspirations of becoming UFC champion sooner rather than later.
As he prepares for his showdown with Derrick Lewis on Saturday night in the main event of UFC Vegas 15, Blaydes knows his two-time opponent Francis Ngannou is the next person in line to face reigning heavyweight king Stipe Miocic. Blaydes concedes that Ngannou deserves that opportunity but he hopes with a convincing win over Lewis that he’ll be the next person in line.
The only additional roadblock in his way could be the arrival of Jon Jones to the division after he vacated his UFC light heavyweight title in order to move up to a new weight class. Jones has actually been teasing a move to heavyweight for nearly a decade but until now he’s never been quite as serious.
Then again that depends on who you ask.
“Is he really going to be a heavyweight?” Blaydes responded when asked about Jones during a recent interview with MMA Fighting. “I see him on Twitter a lot calling out [Israel Adesanya]. Ngannou has asked for Jon a couple times and it’s been crickets. Is he really going up to heavyweight? I don’t know. I think it’s a publicity stunt. Just like all these other times.
“I don’t think he wanted to rematch [Dominick Reyes]. I know Dom didn’t perform up to his abilities against [Jan] Blachowicz but we all watched that fight against Jon Jones. He lost [rounds] one through three.”
After pulling out a decision win against Reyes earlier this year, Jones was supposed to face him in an immediate rematch but the longest reigning light heavyweight champion in UFC history showed little interest in that fight.
Blaydes can’t help but wonder if that had more to do with the way that first fight played out with so many people convinced Jones should have gone home with a loss that night.
“I’ve got nothing against Jon but he lost it,” Blaydes said. “He lost one through three. In my head [as I’m watching], I’m thinking as long as [Reyes] doesn’t get caught, he just beat the GOAT. Then the decision goes the other way, he vacates the belt and he started calling out Izzy. I’m confused.”
After the Reyes rematch fizzled, Jones then showed interest in a fight against Ngannou at heavyweight but that ultimately put him at odds with the UFC over his current salary. Eventually, Jones decided to vacate the 205-pound title with the intention of moving to heavyweight but he still hasn’t booked his first fight.
Blaydes isn’t completely sold he’ll ever actually join the division.
“No, I don’t buy it,” Blaydes said. “I think he’ll do it if there’s a favorable matchup because he knows heavyweight is a different game and we hit different. We move different. Skill is good but if I get on top of you, I’m just heavy.
“Your strength isn’t going to work. Your technique isn’t going to work. I’m just heavier than you are. I just have added gravity. It’s a factor.”
More recently, Jones has posted photos and videos online showing the additional muscle and bulk he’s been adding in preparation to fight at heavyweight but just gaining weight doesn’t necessarily translate to wins in the octagon.
“I look at your legs first. Those are not heavyweight legs,” Blaydes said. “He’s getting older. He’s been in a lot of fights. I know he’s always got his hand raised but the accumulation of damage and all the training and all the years, he’s been in the game a long time.
“I don’t know if he wants to be in the game until he’s 40. I know I don’t and I’ve only been doing it eight years.”
If Jones eventually books a heavyweight fight, Blaydes warns him that he’s going to be facing a much different kind of competition than what he went up against at 205 pounds because size absolutely matters.
“It’s a whole different world,” Blaydes said. “And if you haven’t been a heavyweight your whole life, it’s different leverage. When I get on top of somebody, I don’t have to do all the other little checks and balances guys in other weight classes do. I have gravity. I can pin you with just my knee.
“I don’t have to get an underhook or all the other stuff. I can hold you down with just my hips and legs and I can hit you with my hands. He’s not used to that.”