Curtis Blaydes fully expects Jon Jones to retire after Stipe Miocic, considers Tom Aspinall a tougher fight

For the past few years, Curtis Blaydes became a curious observer when it came to the UFC heavyweight title, because he honestly got tired of calling for a shot at the belt and his pleas falling on deaf ears.

At UFC 304 in July, Blaydes finally gets his first crack at gold when he clashes with Tom Aspinall in the co-main event, but technically he’ll only get to compete for a piece of the title that night. Aspinall currently holds the interim title while Jon Jones reigns as the UFC heavyweight champion, but Jones is expected to face Stipe Miocic in November in a legacy fight more than a year in the making.

As much as Jones picking Miocic as an opponent might annoy Aspinall, Blaydes understands why that fight is happening over a title unification bout.

“We knew Jon wanted the money fight,” Blaydes told MMA Fighting. “The money fight is Stipe. No disrespect to Stipe but he’s also older, he’s not as fast as he once was. On paper, it feels like an easier fight. Like I said, I don’t want to disrespect Stipe, but he’s also 43 years old, something like that. A decade from now, I won’t be the guy I am right now. No disrespect but I knew Jon wasn’t going to fight anybody else except for Stipe. Even when he was talking about Alex Pereira, I knew that wasn’t happening either.

“I hear about the stuff, but it doesn’t stick in my head. I don’t believe it’s going to happen. If it had happened, I’d have been shocked, but I didn’t really believe any of the rumors.”

Miocic hasn’t fought since 2021, when he suffered a knockout loss to Francis Ngannou in the fight that cost him the UFC heavyweight title.

Assuming the Jones fight happens in November, Miocic will be just two months removed from celebrating his 42nd birthday and the odds won’t be on his side to pull off the upset against Jones, who has never really tasted defeat during his entire career (the one blemish on his résumé is a disqualification where Jones was clearly winning before an illegal strike ended the fight).

Still, Miocic is arguably the greatest heavyweight in UFC history, with more consecutive title defenses than anybody else in the 30-plus year history of the company. His accomplishments and name value are exactly what Jones is chasing, and Blaydes can’t fault him for that.

“From a business perspective or think about it in terms of war, if you could take over this base that has a huge name and it’s not as heavily guarded versus this other base that’s a little smaller but you know it’s heavily, heavily guarded, and you’ll get almost the same respect for taking either base — you go for the easier base,” Blaydes explained. “Why not?”

Rumors have also swirled for months that if Jones defeats Miocic to defend the UFC heavyweight title, it could serve as the final fight of his legendary career. Jones has hinted at retirement in the past, but adding Miocic to his résumé would seem like one of the last boxes he could ever want to check before walking away from the sport.

Of course, Jones could stick around to unify the titles against the winner of Blaydes’ fight against Aspinall, but the veteran heavyweight contender just doesn’t see that happening.

“I fully believe [Jones will retire],” Blaydes said. “He’ll have to prove us wrong. That’s what I believe. That’s what a lot of guys think. Obviously we talk about these things at the gym, I have the perspective of other fighters, other coaches, other people in the MMA world, and I haven’t heard anyone who really believes that he isn’t going to retire.”

To be perfectly clear, Blaydes isn’t taking issue with Jones should he decide to hang up his gloves after facing Miocic. In fact, Blaydes actually wonders why Jones would even consider sticking around and risking everything against him or Aspinall.

“Because why wouldn’t he [retire]?” Blaydes said. “What else does he have to prove? He’s rich. He’s got the status. He’s the GOAT. That’s not deniable. He’s on the Mount Rushmore for anybody. I don’t see what brings him back into the octagon after the Stipe fight.”

That said, Blaydes feels like he’s actually getting the tougher fight by drawing Aspinall now over Jones. As much as he respects Jones for his long list of accomplishments, Blaydes acknowledges that his matchup against Aspinall presents bigger threats because simply put, he’s facing a bigger, stronger opponent.

“I say Aspinall [is the tougher fight] just because he’s younger, a little springier and he’s a natural heavyweight,” Blaydes said Wednesday on The MMA Hour. “I know Jon’s the better grappler but I don’t think that’s enough of a determining factor to make him harder than Aspinall. I think Aspinall because he’s a legitimate heavyweight. I think he probably hits harder also. That’s all speculation but he looks like he hits harder than Jon. He also showed he can do grappling, just not at the highest level. I’m going to give it to Aspinall.

“I know when Jon hears this he’s going to be like ‘he thinks I suck.’ That’s not what I’m saying. Right now, Aspinall is a harder fight than Jon Jones.”

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