Chris Curtis deserves to be noticed for taking fights on short notice

By E. Spencer Kyte | Posted 2 years ago

Two months ago, Chris Curtis was not on the UFC roster but the journeyman fighter was in the right place, at the right time, and raised his hand when surging middleweight Phil Hawes’ opponent was unable to make it to the scale the day before they were scheduled to face off in early October.


With no notice, the 34-year-old agreed to face the streaking Hawes, a former top prospect who had put together four victories in 13 months to climb to the cusp of the Top 15 in the middleweight division. Curtis stepped on the scale and made weight, striking his familiar Randy Orton-esque pose for the assembled media.


Hawes declined the short-notice pairing, opting against facing the 34-fight veteran with zero time to prepare, leading to the duo being officially booked to face off against one another on the preliminary card at UFC 268 in New York City a month later.


Going from being on the outside looking in to competing at Madison Square Garden and on ESPN as part of one of the biggest fight cards of the year was already a major victory for Curtis, who had momentarily walked away from the sport multiple times only a couple years earlier, resigned to the fact that this moment wouldn’t come to pass.


Rather than settle for simply being a part of the show, Curtis went out and got himself a first-round stoppage victory.


“Even in a fight where I had everything going against me, and my opponent has all the physical advantages, we still found a way to win,” offered the excitable and engaging Curtis, who weathered Hawes’ early attacks before connecting with a left hand that stopped him in his tracks and kicked off the finishing sequence. “It sucks that it took so long to get there, but it’s paid off.


“It is validation,” the Las Vegas-based fighter, who returns to action this weekend against another highly regarded emerging talent, Brendan Allen, in another short-notice assignment told OSDB Sports. “I’ve said for a long time that I can fight with the best of them, so to take that fight and have everyone say, ‘You don’t have a chance, blah blah blah’ and then stop him in a round …”


He paused momentarily, searching for the right sentiment.


“I’ve been saying for years that I can fight with the best in the world and it was nice to prove that.”


As is always the case, there are still those that don’t believe Curtis has what it takes to compete in the UFC. They see his victory over Hawes and call it a “lucky punch” or point to Hawes’ previous defeats and difficulty dealing with big shots as the reason for his successful debut, uninterested in giving him any credit or believing that what he’s been saying for the last several years could possibly be true.


And it has been several years that Curtis has said he belongs on the biggest stage in the sport.


Three summers ago, he scored a third-round knockout win over Sean Lally on the opening bout of the second season of Dana White’s Contender Series, an annual talent search competition where the UFC President and company’s matchmakers watch five matches per week and award contracts to those that impress them the most.


Despite landing a spinning hook kick to put away Lally, the Ohio-born “Action Man” walked away empty handed, and announced he was walking away from the sport for the first time soon after.


He’d have a couple more starts and stops before the COVID-19pandemic put the clamps on the regional fight scene for the majority of last year. But he set out this year with designs on getting signed and proving he belongs, and after four wins in seven months to begin his 2021 campaign, Curtis did both over the last six weeks.


Now he has his sights set on finishing the year inside the Top 15.


“I tell people I went from poor to middle class in six weeks,” joked Curtis, who renegotiated his contract following his victory over Hawes, and could break into the rankings with a similar performance against Allen on Saturday.


“I like Brendan Allen — he seems like a cool guy, he’s a great fighter,” Curtis said. 


“Everybody is saying, ‘He’s done this, this, and this in the UFC,’ and I’m like, ‘He’s good, but I can beat those people too; he just got here before me.’ They’re like, ‘He has so many wins in the UFC,’ and it’s like, ‘Had I been here earlier, I would have the same wins.’


“I’m just here to prove myself,” continued Curtis, who is the third fighter from Xtreme Couture to be paired with Allen on this weekend’s card after his initial opponent Brad Tavares and the first replacement option, Roman Dolidze, were both forced to withdraw.


“I’m one of those guys where I don’t have a pristine record I have to protect. I’m an old dog in this fight, so I don’t have to worry about that. I just want to go fight, put on a show, and show everybody that I belong here.


“I want to go knock off Brendan Allen because that will put me (in the Top 15) and at that point, people will have to shut up. He’s a very well-rounded guy, but I should have been here years ago, and I’ll take these hard fights to prove it.”


The irony of Curtis’ current situation and the potential for him to go from not being on the roster to breaking into the rankings in the span of a couple months is that the plan coming out of his fight with Hawes was either to shift back to welterweight or cherry-pick some favorable matchups if he opted to stick around the 185-pound weight class.


Instead, Curtis just kept raising his hand every time a fighter fell out. 


He volunteered to face Kyle Daukaus a week after his fight with Hawes when the Philadelphia native needed a dance partner at the last minute.


He offered to step in and face Andre Muniz next weekend at UFC 269 when the streaking Brazilian’s original opponent was forced to withdraw.


And he raised his hand after Tavares and Dolidze dropped out of this weekend’s clash with Allen, who has earned a pair of impressive victories already this year and sports a 5-1 record inside the Octagon overall.


“There are guys that are convinced that it was a lucky shot against Phil, but you’re always going to find people that want to discredit you. 


“Nothing against Brendan Allen at all — he’s a good fighter, but I’m a really good fighter as well,” said Curtis. “I’m giving up size, but it’s not the first time. There’s not many people between 170 and 185 pounds that I can’t fight with, so let’s f****** go!


“I’ve deserved to be here for a long time, and as time goes on, people will see that I should have been here,” he added, the excitement in his voice growing the more he spoke about the upcoming clash. “When people say, ‘What if you lose?’ I’m like, ‘So what? I’ve lost eight times in the past.’


“I don’t have a sterling record I have to defend. I don’t want to be one of those guys that gets to the UFC, comes out guns blazing, and then they stop fighting because they’re terrified to lose and risk something. You have to take risks.”


As much as a short-notice pairing against a talented fighter nine years his junior is a high-risk proposition, Curtis did have a plethora of resources to draw from as he prepared for this weekend’s contest.


In addition to both Tavares and Dolidze spending time preparing to face Allen, two additional training partners — Sean Strickland and Punahele Soriano — have each shared the Octagon with Allen in the last 13 months, with Strickland handing him his lone loss in the UFC and Soriano dropping a decision to the Louisiana native when they fought at the end of July.


“This worked out great because Brad Tavares was going to fight him, and then Roman (Dolidze) was going to fight him, and then Sean has fought him and Puna has fought him, so I’ve got four camps that were dedicated to Brendan Allen, and two people that have already fought him,” offered the confident Curtis. “Stylistically, I fall somewhere between Sean and Puna, so it works out; we’ve got a lot of info to draw on.


“I don’t think it’s a bad matchup at all,” he added. “My wrestling has gotten good, I’m hard to submit, and I can keep a pace that most people can’t, so let’s go.”


And regardless of how things shake out this weekend, Curtis has no plans on slowing down or dialing it back once next year begins.


“Win, lose, or draw, next year is going to be a bloodbath, man,” he said with a laugh. “I’m 34 years old — I got to this stage way later than I would have liked, so I’m not going to have as much time as everybody else.


“I’m going to try my hardest to rip a hole through Brendan Allen, and then next year, I’m going to try to go as fast as humanly possible because I’ve got three good years left and I want to make the most of it.


“All gas, no brakes in 2022.”

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