The Ultimate Fighter
Chris Daukaus is on vacation.
Normally, Las Vegas is the perfect destination for a week’s worth of R&R, but Daukaus’ time off from his job as a Philadelphia police officer comes with a little asterisk, as he’s actually in the fight capital of the world preparing for the biggest bout of his career – a Saturday meeting with No. 10-ranked heavyweight contender Aleksei Oleinik.
And on Tuesday evening, he’ll be back on duty.
“I have a bunch of vacation time saved up, so I take vacation time for fight week, and the way my schedule works, I'm off Sunday and Monday, so I just have to be back Tuesday night and then once I'm back in Tuesday night, I'm back to being the regular cop that you need when you call 911.”
Not just any cop, but a member of a tactical unit that works from 6pm to 2am. It may sound like an odd shift, but it’s when commanders have learned that the most criminal acts will be committed. This, and he gets into a sanctioned fistfight viewed by millions every couple months.
Safe to say the 9 to 5 world was not going to satisfy the 31-year-old. All you can do is feel for his poor wife, Kelly.
“She hates every minute of it,” Daukaus laughs, “but that's me and I would absolutely lose my mind if I was stuck behind a desk for eight hours a day, seven days a week. I could not do it. I need to be running, I need to be getting my adrenalin up, I need to have that excitement in my life, and those two things are definitely gonna get your blood flowing a little bit.”
Frankly, between police work and prizefighting, there’s no time for Daukaus’ blood to settle down, but it’s the way he’s always wanted it, because there are no guarantees in the fight game. Yet if he keeps going the way he has in the UFC thus far, he is well aware that putting his backup plan on the backburner is a distinct possibility.
“I've been doing both careers, hand-in-hand, for the past 10-11 years,” he said. “It was more or less let's do the police thing because I was starting a family with my wife and I needed that security blanket. I needed that insurance policy just so that if anything did happen, she was covered, I was covered and everything was fine. And then it was, okay, I'm still gonna fight because that's really what I want to do. That's what I'm super passionate about. And it was always just keep grinding on both - work the police job, get paid so you don't have to worry about the bills if God forbid you get hurt in a fight. It was always do the police thing, but I'm chasing that dream of being a full-time fighter.”
Since getting the call to the UFC last summer, Daukaus has made an impact in a heavyweight division where he can move quickly if he keeps winning, and he’s done his part, scoring back-to-back first-round knockouts of fellow prospects Parker Porter and Rodrigo Nascimento that earned him this weekend’s bout with Oleinik. It’s a big step for the Philadelphian, but he’s not shying away from it.
“I didn't think I would be getting an opponent ranked this high this quickly,” he said. “But you know what, this is exactly what I want. I don't want to pass the months or the years by fighting guys who are recently signed through the Contender Series or just made their way to the UFC. I want the best and the biggest names that are out there, and this is that first step. I'm really excited for this fight and I can't wait to show the world that I truly belong with the best heavyweights in the world.”
Not bad for someone who was at a crossroads at this time last year. Scheduled to compete for a CFFC title, the COVID-19 pandemic left Daukaus without a fight and with plenty of question marks on his fighting future, especially since he believed winning the regional promotion’s belt would have been his ticket to the UFC.
“Realistically, at that point, I thought I needed to win that regional title to even get a call from the UFC,” said Daukaus, who was 8-3 at the time and hadn’t fought since an August 2019 win over Danny Holmes. “So I was in a dark place. I wanted to fight, I needed to fight, it was a long time since I fought, and to be so close and have it stripped away like that, it really did hurt. But it was something that I'm proud that I went through. I was able to keep pushing and I finally got that call. And I haven't looked back.”
He hasn’t. And now, with a win over a Top 10 contender, he will likely enter the rankings himself. In July, he’ll have ten years on the force, and perhaps with a second win in 2021, he can take a little break to make a full-time go at chasing a heavyweight title. And while it’s the cliché of clichés, Daukaus is living the dream. But that comes as an asterisk, too, because the dream he’s living is one shared by anyone working a day job who wished to toss that aside to be a professional athlete.
“I honestly didn't realize how many people were following my story and my career, especially some co-workers,” said Daukaus. “They're all saying, 'You're living out what people dream about doing. You're living what movies are made of.' And I'm just like, dude, I don't see it that way just because I'm so focused on everything and this has been my life for the past ten years. It's a constant grind of, I'm going to work, I'm that blue collar dude, just going in, putting in the time at work and then doing what he loves after work, trying to make something better for his family and the people who have supported him for the past ten years.”
And that’s the ultimate goal, to give Kelly and their two-year-old son Cooper the best life possible. If that means patrolling the streets overnight during the week and fighting the best heavyweights in the world on the weekend, he’ll do it.
“I was the type of person who knew what I wanted and I wanted to start a family with my wife,” he said. “I knew what I had to do and it's no secret - you can't fight forever and I want to have an insurance policy, not only for myself but for my wife and my children in the later years so that when I can't physically fight anymore, and if I don't want to be running into burning buildings or running after a guy with a gun anymore, I can step away and just relax and enjoy the time that my family sacrificed these past 10, 11 years. I can actually gain that time back with them at a later date and provide for them the life that they deserve and that I deserve. That's my plan.”
So far, so good. And worst-case scenario, if he continues working both jobs, when Carter goes to school, he will likely have the coolest dad of anyone in the class.
“I got all bases covered so that whatever path he chooses, I can certainly guide him on how to do it properly.”