Curtis Blaydes plans to make a statement and give the UFC a reason to provide him a shot at heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic when he mixes it with Shamil Abdurakhimov this weekend.
The 28-year-old, nicknamed 'Razor', was mightily impressive when scoring a unanimous decision victory over Justin Willis in March.
It was a timely reminder of the American's talent after he was knocked out in just 45 seconds by the fearsome Francis Ngannou last November, the second time he had lost to his heavyweight rival.
A third bout with Ngannou is an opportunity Blaydes, who has an MMA record of 11-2-0, would relish but for now, he wants to enhance his claims for a title fight.
"I think every opportunity to get in the Octagon is an opportunity to make a statement. I'm going to use this opportunity to use my striking and my wrestling and put my MMA skills on display," he told Omnisport ahead of UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.
"I would love that opportunity [to fight Miocic] but that's up to the UFC. It's up to me to give them a reason to give me an opportunity at the belt, that's what I'll do this weekend."
Posters time to do some exploring pic.twitter.com/fSLYLdNZ6m
— Curtis Blaydes (@RazorBlaydes265) September 4, 2019
On the prospect of facing Ngannou again, he added: "Of course, he's beaten me twice so I want to get that back but not at the expense of a title fight.
"If they offered me Ngannou or Stipe I'm obviously going to take Stipe."
Blaydes' immediate focus is on Abdurakhimov, who has put together an impressive three-win streak in UFC.
He recognizes his wrestling skills will be important against the Russian, an opponent whose skills Blaydes has plenty of respect for.
"My wrestling is always going to be important, it sets up my striking, I'm always going to use my wrestling, it's very important," he added.
"Every big man is a threat, we all have the ability to knock one another out it just takes the right hit. I'm definitely respecting his power."
Blaydes coined a colorful nickname for Willis, playing on his opponent's 'Big Pretty' nickname after their fight earlier this year.
But Blaydes – fourth in the UFC heavyweight rankings – has no plans to show such creativity for Abdurakhimov, explaining: "I only did that to Justin Willis because he was being a d—, so that's what brought that out in me.
"Shamil has been respectful, so I'll extend the same respect that's been shown to me."