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Chris Daukaus screams after the referee called the fight against Shamil Abdyrakhimov in their Heavyweight fight during UFC 266 at T-Mobile Arena on September 25, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)
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Chris Daukaus Ready To Lay Down The Law

Ex Philadelphia Cop "All In" On His Newfound Place Among Heavyweight Elite

No, you’re not hearing things if you talk to Chris Daukaus these days. The heavyweight contender does sound like he’s happier than he’s ever been as he gets used to life as a civilian prizefighter.

“Seeing my wife come home from work, it's really weird,” said the former member of the Philadelphia Police Department whose official resignation date was December 1. “Normally I would come home and everyone's asleep and I gotta be super quiet just getting home from training, and now waiting for everyone to come home is really weird. It's like a part of life that I've never experienced, so it's all new to me.”

For over a decade, Daukaus trained to become the best mixed martial artist he could be, all the while working a 6pm to 2am shift in the City of Brotherly Love. Add in family life as a husband and father, and it was a lot for anyone to manage, not to mention the stress his wife Kelly had to go through, hoping that Daukaus would come home safe from his day job.

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“She's loving that I'm home with my son all the time, so it's really good,” said Daukaus of life these days after handing in his papers. At first, it was expected that the 32-year-old was going to take a leave of absence while climbing the ladder of the UFC’s heavyweight division, but when pressed to make a choice, he chose fighting. Guess he’s all-in.

“A hundred percent,” he laughs. “I am completely all-in on this.” 

Considering that he’s 4-0 with four knockouts and three Performance of the Night bonuses since making his Octagon debut in August 2020, it was a wise choice as he heads into his first UFC main event this weekend against former world title challenger Derrick Lewis. But what if he didn’t get off to such a fast start that he’s now sitting in the No.7 spot in the division? Would he have made the same choice if he started out 2-2 in the big show?

“Honestly, if I was 2-2, depending on how those fights went - if I was struggling through those fights or if they were competitive fights where I just made a simple mistake and got two losses, I absolutely think that I would still be making this call,” he said. “It's an opportunity, and I think that it would drive me more. If I was 2-2, knowing me and my personality, I would say that I need to focus on this more to be 4-0 from those 2-2 fights. But I'm here, and I'm not one to squander any kind of opportunity, so yeah, I would definitely still be doing this.”

That’s good news for the Daukaus family and for fight fans who have packed his bandwagon after his finishes of Parker Porter, Rodrigo Nascimento, Aleksei Oleinik and Shamil Abdurakhimov. But while Daukaus is obviously a talented contender on the rise, he’s also an honest fighter, so when you ask if he’s been a little surprised about his rapid ascent in the big show, he doesn’t hesitate to say, “Very much so. The way that I've finished certain opponents in the spectacular way that I've done, it's certainly surprising to me. I didn't expect it to come this way, but when I fight Derrick Lewis on December 18, I'm not expecting that. I'm expecting it to be the hardest fight that I've ever had in my life. And I hope Derrick really comes ready to fight and brings out the dog inside of me. I'm really excited.”

Chris Daukaus Sits Down With Megan Olivi | UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Daukaus
Chris Daukaus Sits Down With Megan Olivi | UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Daukaus
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Texas’ Lewis is four months removed from a fight for the interim heavyweight crown that he lost to Ciryl Gane, but that was preceded by a four-fight winning streak. In other words, Lewis is far from done as a top-flight heavyweight, and with “The Black Beast” at number three in the rankings, a win by Daukaus would be a major one. Daukaus knows it, and hey if that dogfight happens, he’s ready for it.

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“Us heavyweights really don't get into those crazy dogfights,” he said. “We usually land a couple punches and then we're getting woken up by the referee (Laughs), so if my chin can hold up, that would be great. I don't really want to test it against Derrick Lewis, but if it's gotta hold up, it will hold up.”

The 12-3 Daukaus has already proven that he can hang with the big boys at the elite level of the game. What is still in question is whether he can handle the main event spotlight and everything that comes along with being a star in this sport. But so far, so good, and Daukaus believes he’s not going to be fazed by the attention. 

“I am absolutely ready for this,” he said. “This is everything that I've wanted to do, and this comes along with the territory. I want the big-name fights, I want the main event spots, I want my name and my face on the giant billboards in Times Square. I want everything that the UFC can push, and that the media can throw at me - I want it all.”

He means it, too. And while it’s only taken him less than a year and a half to get here, he’s been thinking about this moment and even bigger ones once he halted Porter in his UFC debut.

“Once I got signed to the UFC, after I had the fight against Parker Porter, then I really started thinking about the whole landscape of the heavyweight division and I started going through the matchups in my head and who the dream fights would be and fighting in a sold-out arena for the heavyweight belt,” he said. “Everyone's on my list, and it's a short list now, but I get through Derrick Lewis and the list becomes even shorter. So we'll see what happens December 18th.”

What happens on December 18 determines how 2022 will look for the Philadelphian, and that’s an exciting way to go into a new year. How exciting? Listen to Daukaus talk without knowing his situation, and you may think he’s unemployed at the moment.

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“This isn't a job for me, this is fun,” he said. “I don't have to go to work anymore, but I still have to go to the gym. I don't have to do anything I did in my previous career; I just do my day as I see fit and it's really awesome. To have these dreams and aspirations that you have when you first start out to them actually becoming a reality, it's really crazy to think about and to see it come to fruition.”

UFC 252: Chris Daukaus TKOs Porter
UFC 252: Chris Daukaus TKOs Porter
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He earned it, and it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table as a full-time fighter. That’s a question to start being answered on Saturday, but one thing not open for debate is the reality that no one will be watching the UFC 270 main event between Francis Ngannou and Gane on January 22 more closely than Daukaus.

“I watch all the fights, but that one I'll be paying extra close attention to just because I'm fascinated by the amount of success that Gane has had recently,” he said. “It's like him, me and (Tom) Aspinall who've been getting skyrocketed up. Aspinall is a great fighter, I fully expect to fight him. Gane, I fully expect to fight him. I think he's going to beat Francis - I think that he has a little bit more tools in the toolbox as far as getting the job done. And once that fight happens, depending on how that goes, I don't know if there will be an immediate rematch, but however the cards fold out, I'm just gonna be focused on whoever the UFC puts in front of me. But those guys are definitely on my radar, and I fully expect to fight either one of them later in 2022 or early 2023. I'm ready to go.”

Sounds like an ex-cop prepared to lay down the law in the Octagon. 

“If you would have given me two options on how I would have felt my UFC career would have went, this is definitely not the option that I would have picked about getting skyrocketed and talking about a title shot within a year and a half, two years,” Daukaus said. “But that's the type of confidence that I have and the confidence in my abilities that I've been putting on display. I'll get through Derrick Lewis, and come January/February, be ranked right there at the top of the heap. I'll be ready to go to fight whoever the UFC deems fit for me to fight.”

Don't miss a moment of the final fight night of the year at UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Daukaus, live from the UFC APEX on ESPN+. Prelims begin at 4pm ET/1pm PT. Main card begins at 7pm ET/4pm PT.