Curtis Blaydes: Jon Jones ‘not scared’ of Tom Aspinall, Stipe Miocic is just ‘biggest heavyweight fight of the century’

Since the first day Curtis Blaydes arrived in the UFC, the heavyweight title has almost always been under duress for one reason or another.

Whether the belt was tied up in the Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier trilogy or Francis Ngannou was at odds with the UFC over his contract, the path to a shot at heavyweight gold has always been filled with obstacles. The latest instance involves the injury Jon Jones suffered that prevented him from fighting Miocic this past November, and the UFC ultimately crowning Tom Aspinall as an interim champion in his absence.

Since that time, Aspinall has repeatedly called for a chance to unify the titles, however the UFC has made it clear that Jones remains on a collision course with Miocic sometime in 2024. As much as that scenario once again muddies the waters at heavyweight, perennial top-five contender Curtis Blaydes understands why that’s happening.

“That’s just the nature of the beast,” Blaydes told MMA Fighting. “It’s a business. We get it. Jon Jones vs. Stipe right now, without either of them having another potential [loss], is the biggest heavyweight fight of the century. It really is. The UFC’s going to do everything to preserve that. I get it. That’s how the business grows. It’s good for the UFC overall. The more money they make, the more money everybody makes.

“I think Aspinall understands, that’s why he stopped asking. He understands this is just business. It’s not that they don’t believe he’s a good matchup for Jon. It’s that he’s not going to get as many pay-per-view buys as Stipe. That’s just what it is. I get it. I feel for him.”

As Miocic approaches 42 years of age after sitting out since suffering a knockout loss to Ngannou in 2021, an argument could easily be made that Aspinall would actually be a tougher fight for Jones at this stage of his career.

As much as that narrative may get pushed, Blaydes scoffs at the idea that Jones would take the fight with Miocic simply to avoid a showdown with Aspinall.

“Jon’s not scared of nobody,” Blaydes said. “He’s not scared of Aspinall. He’s going after Stipe. Stipe is the scariest heavyweight of the past 15 odd years. He’s going after him. I don’t think he’s scared or nothing.

“It’s about money. I can’t blame him, especially if this is going to be his last one. Get the bag and then bounce.”

Of course, Blaydes has his own history with Aspinall after they briefly met in a main event fight in London back in July 2022. On that night, Blaydes won after Aspinall suffered a devastating knee injury that ended his night just 15 seconds into the opening round.

Despite owning a win over Aspinall on his record, Blaydes doesn’t bloviate about that fight or use it as a way to jab at the current UFC interim heavyweight champion. Instead, the 33-year-old former college wrestler prefers to look at his brief history with Aspinall as unfinished business — and a rematch he’d absolutely like to pursue.

“I don’t even brag about that win,” Blaydes said. “I don’t tell people, ‘Oh, I beat Aspinall!’ I don’t really. That’s not how I feel about it. It’s not one of those I can brag about. I’d like to get a braggable win though. I would like that.

“Had it gone the other way, I wouldn’t respect him if he was bragging that he beat me. I’m like, ‘You didn’t beat me, I got injured,’ and that’s how I view it. I know it’s a win for me and a loss for him, but it can be beneath the numbers, I view it as an incomplete.”

As he prepares to face Jailton Almeida at UFC 299 on Saturday, Blaydes understands the volatile nature of the heavyweight division might actually favor him this time around.

Because he has a past history with Aspinall, Blaydes could potentially jump to the front of the line with a win over Almeida. Given that — and Jones vs. Miocic effectively making Aspinall the odd man out — Blaydes could slot right in as an opponent for Aspinall’s interim heavyweight title if he gets past Almeida.

That being said, Blaydes can’t state with any amount of certainty that the scenario will actually unfold because it’s just impossible to predict what happens next.

“I win, it’s not in stone,” Blaydes said. “Brock Lesnar could pop out of the blue. This is the UFC. I know who I am. I know how the UFC views me. I know how they view other guys. Other guys with accents. I know how it is. There’s no guarantee for anything beyond this fight. Hell, I could win and get released. I’ve seen crazier things happen, so I don’t look beyond Almeida at all.”

Blaydes confesses that he’s come to understand his status in the UFC hierarchy and he’s not really complaining about it because it does him no good. That doesn’t mean he likes the way the sport has swung so vehemently towards the loudest guys in the room getting the most attention, but he also knows there’s really nothing he can do about it.

“[UFC views me] as not a star,” Blaydes said. “I don’t have that personality like the [Israel Adesanyas] and the Paddy [Pimbletts]. I don’t talk smack. I don’t do a lot of self-promotion. I don’t do that stuff. I understand the opportunities I pass on by not being like those guys. That’s just not who I am and I’m not going to force it. I get it. It’s OK. The money’s good. I’m happy with just the money. I don’t need the prestige and all that stuff.

“Don’t hate the player, hate the game. I hate the game. I hate that’s how you have to get rewarded, but I don’t have to play that. I don’t hate [Conor] McGregor. It worked out for him. It usually works out for the loudmouths, the big mouths. As long as you’re winning and you’ve got a loud mouth, it usually works out.”

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