Curtis Blaydes Will Never Allow His Ego to Get Out of Control Like Francis Ngannou

Curtis Blaydes promises that his ego will never get inflated and he'll never become a rock star no matter how much fame he finds in the UFC.

Less than a year ago, Francis Ngannou was being hailed as the future of the heavyweight division and it almost seemed like a forgone conclusion that he was going to demolish Stipe Miocic and become the next major UFC superstar.

Five rounds of hell later, Ngannou was soundly defeated by Miocic.

Fast forward to July and Ngannou had a chance to redeem himself in a grudge match against Derrick Lewis. 15 minutes later, Ngannou suffered his second straight defeat with a lot of confused looks in his direction after a truly bizarre performance.

Following that fight, UFC president Dana White started making comments about how Ngannou allowed fame and fortune to get to his head. Even Ngannou’s head coach Fernand Lopez admitted that his prize pupil was starting to get an inflated ego.

If Ngannou wants to prevent going 0-3 in 2018, he’s going to have to correct course by facing arguably the toughest possible matchup for him right now as he faces Curtis Blaydes on Saturday in China.

While Ngannou holds a win over Blaydes from early in their respective UFC careers, a lot has changed since then. Blaydes has gone undefeated and picked up back-to-back wins over title contenders Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt while sitting arguably just one victory away from a title shot.

Blaydes has witnessed first hand how Ngannou went from the most hyped fighter on the entire UFC roster to a potential cautionary tale thanks to an inflated ego. That’s why Blaydes promises even if he becomes UFC heavyweight champion, he will never allow it to go to his head.

“I’ve been grinding my whole life. I’ve been a winner my whole life and I’ve never allowed that to change the person I am,” Blaydes said. “I won in high school, I won states, I won in college, I won nationals, I won amateurs and I won as a pro. Maybe it doesn’t affect me because I expected it to happen. I expect to be champion. I knew this would happen.

“I knew I would be where I am today eventually. I knew it would happen. I just act like I’ve been there before.”

While it’s not really an effort for Blaydes to stay grounded, he always surrounds himself with like minded people who have the same drive that he does to become the best.

At his training camp in Colorado, Blaydes isn’t paying for some extravagant house or renting expensive cars just to show off the money he’s made. Instead, Blaydes share a house with four other fighters owned by UFC welterweight Neil Magny because they are all there to help each other get better each and every day.

“I don’t plan on becoming a rock star. That’s not me,” Blaydes said.

Blaydes hopes the payoff to that kind of determination will be a UFC heavyweight title reign in the near future.

Even then, Blaydes says a championship belt won’t make him become a different person because the moment he stops grinding harder than everybody else in the gym is the say that title will no longer be around his waist.

“I heard this from Neil. It’s not hard to get into the UFC. It’s hard to stick around,” Blaydes said. “A lot of guys get here and they get complacent and they stop doing the things that got them there. They stop grinding. They stop doing the extra sprints after a hard wrestling practice. They stop beating up the bag for an extra round after practice. They stop doing those things. It catches up to them.

“There’s other young, hungry guys who don’t have what they have and they are willing to do what they need to do to take it. I don’t plan on getting complacent.”

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.