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‘Champ mode’ - Curtis Blaydes eying Ciryl Gane, Jon Jones and Francis Ngannou

Curtis Blaydes wants a shot at the ‘real’ UFC heavyweight title, not the interim belt

Curtis Blaydes doesn’t know what’s next for him, but the UFC heavyweight expects to be back inside the octagon in early 2023.

Blaydes, who is the No. 3 ranked fighter in the official UFC heavyweight rankings, hasn’t competed since he earned a TKO win over Tom Aspinall in July at UFC London. A knee injury at the 15-second mark of the first round brought that contest to a close. The win put Blaydes on a three-fight winning streak.

If Blaydes could pick his opponent, his next fight would be against the No. 1 ranked Ciryl Gane in April.

“It has to be him. It has to be him,” Blaydes told Fanatics View. “I know he’ll be healthy (at the) end of January. I give him eight weeks. We can do it in April.”

As for the talk of a potential fight with Jon Jones, while Blaydes has not heard from the UFC on that front, he’s taking those reports seriously.

“Seeing as how it’s been reported by all these official MMA websites and authors, I think it’s legit, and I’m going to begin preparing when I get home after the holidays,” said Blaydes. “I’ll be in champ mode or the mindset, so I’ll be ready. We’ll see what happens though.”

According to MMA Junkie, the UFC hopes to book Jones opposite Francis Ngannou for UFC 285 in March. However, if Ngannou’s knee injury prevents him from competing or if the UFC can’t get Ngannou signed to a new contract, the Blaydes fight is likely the fallback plan for the UFC.

The way Blaydes sees it, even if the UFC books Ngannou vs. Jones, he’ll gladly serve as the backup for that fight, if the promotion wants him to do so.

“I don’t mind being a backup because you never know with Jon. You never know. I’ll be there, hopefully. I’ll be on weight, obviously. I’ll be ready,” said Blaydes.

Blaydes made clear that he doesn’t want to fight backward in the rankings.

“Jon (and an interim title fight) is just the ultimate consolation, but what you workout for every day is the real belt, not the interim belt,” Blaydes said. “The real belt.”