Curtis Blaydes declares ‘I’m a heel,’ is unapologetic if fans didn’t like UFC on ESPN 11 headliner

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Maybe he’s always known it, or he just discovered it after going 25 minutes with a massive Russian. Either way, UFC on ESPN 11 headliner Curtis Blaydes has reached a turning point in his career.

“I think I know who I am now: I’m a heel,” Blaydes said after his workmanlike decision over Alexander Volkov on Saturday at UFC APEX. “You don’t like what I do. I like to make you mad. I like to win.”

And that’s exactly what he did, out-wrestling Volkov early in the 25-minute fight and then doing what he needed to do to survive when he ran out of steam in the championship rounds. It wasn’t a fight that will end up on any top-10 lists, but it was just as effective as many of Blayde’s other trips to the octagon.

Blaydes doesn’t sell a bombastic personality to go along with his wrestling-heavy style, as others have previously done. Now, though, he’s apparently going to lean into all the criticism he gets from MMA observers.

“That’s probably the best part about this win is I predicted this, and I did it for 25 minutes,” Blaydes said. “It didn’t look the best, but I’m OK with having a gritty win like that. I know a lot of fans didn’t like it. I’m OK with that. It makes me happy.”

Blaydes wasn’t so happy when he heard UFC President Dana White’s recommendation for his career. After declaring his intention to only fight contenders, White wants him to stay busy to improve on cardio he said was lacking. Blaydes looked visibly exasperated when he was informed of White’s words. One could only imagine his reaction if told White also said he looked “stupid.”

Nothing, however, could take away the ultimate result: another win on his record.

“I’m very happy with the result,” Blaydes said. “It was a dominant decision. I can live with that.”

Blaydes said he would work on his gas tank for the future. If anything, that will make him a more efficient version of what he is right now.

“I’m going to work on it,” he said. “You live and you learn. It’s always good to learn lessons, especially when you win and learn a lesson. Next time, I’ll be a lot more judicious with my takedowns and the pace. Next time we get a tall guy like that, I didn’t really get to bring in anyone who was like him. I wasn’t really used to the dimensions, and it presented problems when I was in the guard. It presented some problems that we weren’t really ready for it, but we made it.”