Exclusive: Curtis Blaydes reacts to Lesnar leapfrogging title shot

Monday, July 09, 2018

Top heavyweight title contender Curtis Blaydes (10-1) came to Las Vegas this past weekend to get a good view at his presumptive next opponent – the winner of UFC 226’s heavyweight championship main event between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier. It wasn’t long, however, before the young big man knew that things were about to go off track.

After Cormier knocked Miocic out and earned the title, former champion and current professional wrestler Brock Lesnar was escorted into the cage and presented as DC’s next opponent. Afterward, UFC president Dana White revealed that it is, in fact, the promotion’s intention to have Lesnar jump right into a title fight against Cormier, ahead of Blaydes.

Blaydes knew that things were going to get screwy a bit before Lesnar and Cormier put their shoving, smiling, and cursing show on.

“I had pretty good seats,” Blaydes tells me, Sunday from Las Vegas. “So, I saw Brock show up and sit next to Dana. I knew.”

That Blaydes saw the swerve coming didn’t soften the blow at all. “I feel disrespected,” he continues, plainly.

He should. Blaydes’ only loss career was to future title-challenge Francis Ngannou back in 2016 in the Chicagoan’s UFC debut.

Since then, he’s beaten contender after contender, including legends Alistair Overeem (who owns a knockout win over Lesnar) and Mark Hunt. Lesnar, on the other hand, has not won a fight since 2010.

The former NCAA Division I wrestling national champion lost two-straight fights before fighting Hunt in 2016 with banned performance-enhancing drugs in his system, after UFC-directed USADA abandoned their rules and let Lesnar rush back into competition without entering their drug-testing pool for the supposedly required amount of time, pre-fight. Now, after two years out of competition, banned PED use, and nearly eight years since his last victory, the UFC is putting rankings and records behind spectacle and short-money by leapfrogging Lesnar ahead of Blaydes and the rest of the heavyweight division.

The 27-year-old is understandably upset. He also isn’t just criticizing Lesnar’s deservedness based on his 5-3-1 career record. Blaydes is also pointing out all the ways that he finds Lesnar’s ability and skill to be lacking.

“[Lesnar] has lost two fights in a row, hasn’t fought in two years, and he’s not good,” Blaydes says, bluntly. “[Lesnar] doesn’t have a good skill-set. He’s also not a very good wrestler. People look at him and they see that he was in the NCAA finals twice and assume he is a good wrestler. He isn’t. He’s not very explosive. I’ve actually watched his college matches and he won one title 3-2. When I wrestled I didn’t win matches 3-2, I won them 18-4.”

After earning a shot at UFC gold but seeing it taken away to no fault of his own, Blaydes says he doesn’t know what will be next for him. He just knows he has to speak up for himself, and that he’ll be ready for whatever or whoever steps into his path.

“I’m just freestyling it,” he admits, when asked if he knows what his next move will be. "Today, I’m saying my piece, letting people know how I feel. Tomorrow, we’ll see what happens.”

About the author:
Elias Cepeda is a host of Sports Illustrated's Extra Rounds Podcast, a staff writer at FloCombat, and has a regular column for The UG Blog.

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