UFC 225’s Curtis Blaydes has a huge opportunity ahead of him in Chicago, with the biggest fight of his career to date against Alistair Overeem.
Once again, the UFC heavyweight division is alive and kicking. With up and comers like Alexander Volkov, Derrick Lewis, and Tai Tuivasa, the big men could be center stage for some time to come. But Chicago’s own Curtis Blaydes will have something to say about the future of the 265lb division if he has his way. He’s looking to make that statement at UFC 225 against the ‘Demolition Man’ Alistair Overeem.
It’s been a long time since there has been this much buzz swirling around the heavyweights. However, that is exactly the situation MMA fans and purists alike find themselves in in 2018. With Alexander Volkov’s recent KO of #3 ranked Fabricio Werdum, Derek Lewis circling a fight with Francis Ngannou, and Tai Tuivasa on the rise, the big men are once again must-see TV. Perhaps the most promising fighter in this new wave of talented big men is non-other than Curtis ‘Razor’ Blaydes.
After besting Mark Hunt at UFC 221 last month, the Chicago native gets his wish for a quick turnaround fight against a top ranked opponent at UFC 225, coming up on June 9. There, the Octagon touches down in the “Windy City” for the first time since July of 2016. This will be the first time the UFC has staged a PPV at the United Center; the previous five stops were part of the UFC on FOX series, a minor disparity. On this stop, all eyes will be glued to the big men, as Blaydes takes on the dangerous Overeem.
Cageside Press sat down with the Colorado transplant to talk about what fighting in his home city means to him, how coach Neil Magny has been so instrumental in his development, and what a win over Alistair Overeem could mean for him.
Before Blaydes was laying waste to would-be challengers in the UFC, he was the bouncer for a bar in the Chicago-land area. If you’re thinking about whether his unique skill set ever helped cooler heads prevail, you might be surprised. “No, nothing like that,” said Blaydes.
“I never wanted to work in those kinds of bars where I would ever have to hurt someone. The bar I worked at was in the burbs,” he explained. “It was mostly yuppies, they just wanted to get drunk. It was easy money.”
Speaking of easy money, the manner in which Curtis Blaydes was able to systematically break down a true legend of the sport in Mark Hunt was impressive to say the least. Yet Blaydes would hear some unjust [in this writer’s opinion] criticisms from fans regarding the way he executed his game plan.
“That’s the game plan my coaches came up with and I think I executed it perfectly,” Blaydes said regarding his performance against Hunt. As for the people still chirping, Blaydes added, “I’m over it, if you don’t like my style then don’t watch me.”
Blaydes may not pay much attention to the naysayers and their rather meager criticism. Yet be that as it may, the Chicago born grappler is a bit peeved he isn’t a featured playable character in the new UFC 3 video game. A game that has since seen UFC president Dana White added as a playable character.
“Yea, I saw that,” said Blaydes regarding his boss being added as a fighter. “I don’t know how that works,” Blaydes speculated aloud. “I’m just hoping I wake up one day and I’m in the game.”
Sooner or later EA Sports is going to have to add the #4 ranked heavyweight to the UFC 3 game. It’s rather shocking that any top ten fighter isn’t included, frankly. And if he goes on to convincingly beat the aforementioned Overeem, no one could deny Blaydes his shot at the title, right? “No, I will get the [title] shot when I beat Overeem,” Blaydes assured us.
Blaydes explained that “it doesn’t have to be impressive, I just have to win. It could be a split decision, it doesn’t matter. I should be next for the belt. If you keep winning, they [the UFC] can’t deny you the belt.”
Well, there are some instances like Khabib Nurmagomedov’s. One where a promotion wittingly or unwittingly denies a fighter a title shot for whatever monetary reasons it may have. Sounds a little like a certain pugilistic combat sport that we know and love, now doesn’t it?
Speaking of boxing, what did the Colorado based fighter think of the Deontay Wilder/Luis Ortiz fight? “I think Wilder is a scary dude,” Blaydes said referencing the champ.
“He throws with a lot of power and a lot of aggression. I think he is wild at times,” he added. “But he gets away with it because he has good hand speed and he is incredibly long.”
With that little assessment of Wilder’s stand up, perhaps Blaydes has been spending more time working on his striking game with head coach Neil Magny than he would like us to think. It’s no secret that coach Magny has paid dividends in Blaydes’ overall game. “Neil is a leader of men,” said the #4 ranked heavyweight regarding Team Elevation’s head coach.
“He [Magny] has been a great person to have in my life,” Blaydes told us. “He is a friend, a training partner, he really helped make the transition from Chicago to Colorado smoother.”
Team Elevation and coach Magny have really taken Blaydes’s game to the next level, no pun intended. To think the #4 ranked heavyweight in the world started training on a whim. “I just started training MMA to stay active,” said Blaydes.
“Honestly, when got into MMA I didn’t have any aspirations. I just got into it [MMA] to work out, I didn’t want to get to big. MMA just allowed me to train and be active, I didn’t expect anything.”
That said, expectations will be high on June 9 at UFC 225 in Chicago. There, we’re set to find out if Alistair Overeem can deny Curtis Blaydes his destiny of fighting for the UFC heavyweight title.