Heading into the main event of the UFC’s first ever card in the Czech Republic, light heavyweight contender Jan Blachowicz was on a four-fight win streak and on the cusp of a title shot. But his opponent, Thiago Santos, would get the better of him that night in Prague. The loss would be Blachowicz’s first by knockout.
“I’m just stronger after that. I never lose by knockout; you know, it’s not so bad.” Blachowicz laughed.
Blachowicz admits he had never been knocked down in training or sparring, let alone in a live fight. He believes the experience was important and now that he knows what it feels like, he doesn’t need to fear it or worry about it.
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“I don’t think about this anymore. I think about the next fight, this is history,” Blachowicz said. “I’ve learned from it and I’m focused on creating my new chapter.”
As for Blachowicz’s demeanor and light hearted approach, it isn’t an act. His loss to Santos, who is now set to fight light heavyweight king Jon Jones at UFC 239, didn’t send him spiraling into a mission of self-discovery. Instead, it realigned his focus and helped him become a better fighter.
That quest to improve continued since Blachowicz’s arrival in Las Vegas early last week. His team has spent time in the UFC Performance Institute gearing up for International Fight Week and UFC 239.
On Saturday, he will show the fight world what he has been working on when he welcomes former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold to the 205-lb division.
“He’s a good fighter, good style, a southpaw. I like his style, it’s a good style for me,” Blachowicz said. “That’s why I cannot wait to start fighting against him and I think we together are going to make a really good fight. I have to defend the division so it’s a little bit of pressure, but I will do this. No worries.”
Although Rockhold hasn’t fought in over a year, Blachowicz expects him to be just as dangerous as ever. He would love it if the former champ tested his striking and kept the fight standing, but he will be prepared if Rockhold takes it to the ground.
Blachowicz’s growth in mixed martial arts is something that is important to him and something that he believes will definitely be on display at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday.
“I think, right now, this is my best version,” Blachowicz said. “With Thiago I learned something and now I’m a little bit better than I was in my last fight. I’m going to be at my best on Saturday.”
A big Las Vegas pay-per-view event is the perfect time for Blachowicz to get back on track. And if he can make a statement against a former champ like Rockhold, he believes he will find himself at the top of the light heavyweight contenders’ list.
“I can be underdog I can be favorite, it doesn’t matter to me,” Blachowicz said. “I enjoy fighting and I like to fight. What’s most important to me is to step into the Octagon and start fighting and win the fight.”
The UFC 239 main card starts live on PPV at 10pm/7pm ETPT. Make sure you tune in to see if Blachowicz can take care of business against Rockhold.
Order the PPV here: https://plus.espn.com/ufc/ppv
Gavin Porter is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com, follow him on Twitter at @PorterUFCNews