UFC heavyweight Chris Daukaus is starting to build a reputation as a big-time finisher.
And for good reason.
Daukaus has finished his opponent in the first round in each of his three UFC fights and secured back-to-back Performance of the Night bonuses on his way to cracking the heavyweight top ten. It’s a good thing to be known for and it was always part of Daukaus’ plan.
“We’re heavyweights and that’s what people want to see; they want to see big knockouts and big finishes. It’s something really good for getting my name out there and for exposure,” Daukaus told UFC.com. “If I keep winning in an exciting fashion, I’m just going to keep putting myself on bigger and better shows and September 25th will be the same thing.”
Daukaus’ KO win over Aleksei Oleinik earned him a shot at number seven-ranked Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC 266. Even though this fight wasn’t initially slated to happen during the UFC’s ninth annual International Fight Week, Daukaus is excited to be on a big card and to soak in the moment.
UFC 266 will actually be the first time that Daukaus will fight for the UFC in front of a crowd. It’s something that he’s been looking forward to since making his debut in August 2020. He’s expecting some nerves, but he’s also excited to feel the energy that comes from a packed house.
“I’m really excited to just experience everything. Finally, I’m actually going to a UFC event and fighting in front of all the fans; it’s going to be really fun,” Daukaus said. “It’s something I have to work out with as far as controlling my nerves and stuff like that, but this is why we do this. I’ve always wanted to fight in front of 20,000 fans in the T-Mobile Arena, so this is like a dream come true.”
The pressure of fighting on such a big card isn’t something that the Philadelphia native is worried about. That wasn’t always the case though. In 2019, Daukaus lost the Cage Fury FC heavyweight title and he felt overwhelmed in the moment. Daukaus used the loss as a lesson, and used it as an opportunity to change things in his personal life to enhance his mental fortitude.
“I had full expectations of myself to get that title because I didn’t think that my career was going to go any further if I didn’t get that. I didn’t think that I was going to get any kind of call for the UFC or for Dana White’s Contender Series unless I had that belt,” Daukaus said. “So [after that loss], I kind of just reevaluated everything in my personal life and my career and it’s been really great.”
Since making those re-evaluations, Daukaus has been on an absolute tear. He’s climbed up the UFC heavyweight division’s ladder and an emphatic win over Abdurakhimov will have him knocking on the front door of the heavyweight elite.
That’s where Abdurakhimov was at before his UFC 242 bout with Curtis Blaydes. But after dropping that fight to Blaydes, he hasn’t walked to the Octagon since. That two-year absence from competition is something that Daukaus is wary to put much thought into.
“You don’t really know what he’s really been doing for those two years. I have to believe he’s been constantly training and constantly doing things and I have to believe he hasn’t been able to get a fight for whatever reason,” Daukaus said. “It would be foolish of me to go in and think that he’s the same person that was in there two years ago. I’m excited to see how he comes out, but I don’t think he has anything for me.”
The truth is, Daukaus doesn’t think many heavyweights do have something for him and that’s not hubris. Daukaus sees his movement, hand speed and his output as major weapons that he’s going to unleash on the Top Ten.
“The upper echelon of the UFC, especially the heavyweight division, they are starting to go toward that type of thing as far as more athletic heavyweights like Ciryl Gane,” Daukaus said. “It’ll be good to test myself against Abdurakhimov and then go on to bigger and better things. I think that I match up well with everyone from my position all the way to the top, so I’m excited to get there.”
Even though it’s fun for Daukaus to think about the future and exciting fights against the best heavyweights in the world, he isn’t looking past Abdurakhimov. That’s the fight he must shine in to continue his rise, and he’s excited to prove that he deserves that chance at UFC 266.
“All I can focus on is my career and winning fights and, eventually, I’ll get to where my name is up there,” Daukaus said. “I’ll start dealing with that mess when I get up there.”
Don’t miss Daukaus’ heavyweight clash with Abdurakhimov on the UFC 266 prelims that will air live on ESPN on September 25.