This Saturday’s matchup with Joaquin Buckley is a big one for middleweight veteran Chris Curtis. It’s a home game for him in Las Vegas, it’s on the preliminary portion of the last UFC pay-per-view card of 2022, and given their styles, Curtis and Buckley are prime candidates to put some bonus money in their pocket before the holidays roll around.
So it’s a safe bet to say that Curtis has let go of his July loss to Jack Hermansson, right?
“Oh, hell no,” Curtis says without hesitation. “Absolutely not. I'm entirely focused on Joaquin Buckley, he's super dangerous, he brings a lot of problems, but win, lose or draw, it doesn't stop my claw back to Jack Hermansson.”
Yep, it still burns him that he left the Octagon in London’s O2 Arena not just with his first UFC loss, but with the feeling that he didn’t get to fight.
“I wouldn't mind losing that fight if I got beat up or knocked out or he choked me out or I just got tossed around,” said Curtis. “But I left that fight feeling like I didn't get to fight. And I don't even need a full camp - give me five weeks and I win that fight nine out of 10 times. I'm mad at myself about it, so I haven't let go, but right now, he's not my focus. That being said, I still have grudges from kindergarten, so I'm capable of focusing on things now and holding on to stuff.”
Yes, “Action-Man” still holds grudges from kindergarten. Enter Jessica.
“I'm dead serious,” said Curtis. “In my kindergarten, in the bathrooms, there was one of those old school heaters that were kind of exposed. So my hands are wet, I'm drying them above the heaters, thinking I'm being cool, so Jessica puts her hand on the heater, burns herself, and she starts crying and says, 'Chris told me to do it.' I never did. So I get in trouble.”
The laughing begins. On my side, not his. Then he starts.
Chris Curtis Fight Week Interview | UFC 282
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Chris Curtis Fight Week Interview | UFC 282
“I'm a petty human being, I'm sorry,” he blurts, not really sorry. “Jessica made a lifelong enemy and she doesn't even know it. I'm never letting it go. At some point I'll get a therapist and we'll go over this and we'll talk about how it's unhealthy, but until then, I'm definitely holding on to that still.”
But back to Jack and what turned out to be a perfect gameplan for “The Joker,” and a horrible trip across the pond for Curtis, who jumped in on short notice for Darren Till, expecting to get into a war. The way he sees it, it wasn’t even a heated argument.
“I've lost before, I can accept losing, it sucks, but it's whatever,” said Curtis, who stormed from the Octagon after the fight before taking a friendly photo with Hermansson once the dust had settled. “But I took this on two weeks' notice in the last favorable circumstances ever - all my coaches were gone, half my training partners were hurt - I still say, screw it, whatever, I flew across the world to get into a fistfight. I've seen Jack fight before, Jack's a soldier. He'll come out here, lay it on the line and he'll fight. I didn't get that Jack. So I flew across the world on two weeks' notice to have this battle - screw it, if I lose, whatever. At least I'll die in glorious battle. And then he wants to karate fight me. And I'm like, this is not what I signed up for. We're in London at the O2 Arena, this isn't what these people showed up for, and this is stupid. If there was ever a chance to get a highlight reel knockout of me or a finish of me, this would have been it. I had a week of training before I got stuck in a hotel room and had to fly with no coaches. I was rusty as f**k. Even on fight night I didn't feel clean or smooth, but I'm like, screw it, let's go, let's go have this battle, and then I get point fighter Jack, and this is not what anyone signed up for. Hat’s off to him, he did what he had to do to win.”
And if anything, Curtis did pick up some valuable lessons from the bout. The first, maybe don’t take a fight if your entire Las Vegas team is in New York cornering one of your teammates. Two, get the win by any means necessary. And most importantly, what worked against a certain level of opposition won’t always work when you step things up, even if you do have nearly 40 pro fights.
“I had a lot of fights, a lot of experience, so I was like, okay, I can figure it out, I can pull it off,” said Curtis. “And I was wrong. It looks like my ability to pull s**t out of my ass stops at the Top 10. So I need a little bit more prep time. I thought, I'm a crafty guy and I could bullshit my way through it, and Jack was just as crafty. When you're both as equally crafty, it's who's more prepared wins, and he won that one, so hat's off to him. Lesson learned.”
Now he gets to use those lessons against Buckley, who has his share of highlight-reel knockouts to his name, and when you mix his finishing ability with Curtis’s equally ambitious plans to end the night early, like I wrote earlier, this could end up being a nice way to end the year financially.
“I want the highest-ranked guy, but there are fun matchups,” he said. “I think, at the end of the day, Buckley's just a really fun matchup. I’ll say he has the potential to be because I think Jack had the potential to be a fun matchup but it didn't turn out that way. Hopefully he (Buckley) comes to play and it will be a good time. It's a crazy good card, but I definitely think we can get Fight of the Night.”
What if Hermansson provided the blueprint to beat Curtis, though?
“I don't consider that a blueprint,” he responds. “It won't happen again. I dare you to use that blueprint.”
I think I know the real blueprint to beating Chris Curtis. He’s all ears as I lower my voice and ask him what if his childhood friend Jessica showed up in Buckley’s corner on fight night?
“I would forfeit the fight,” he laughs. “That's a lifelong trauma I have never gotten over.”
UFC 282: Błachowicz vs Ankalaev took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 10, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!