LAS VEGAS – If you didn’t have 34-year-old veteran Chris Curtis pegged as one of the UFC’s most impactful debuting fighters to start 2021, you’re probably not alone.
But after his second shocking TKO upset in just four weeks, “Action Man” is proving quite the promotional newcomer.
“I am just riding the weirdest wave right now, man,” Curtis told MMA Junkie following Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 31 event at the UFC Apex. “It’s kind of weird.”
Fighting professionally since 2009, Curtis didn’t exactly take the direct route to the UFC. He scored a 2018 win at Dana White’s Contender Series but wasn’t ultimately offered a contract. He suffered two losses in a single night in 2019, retiring after each result, and it seemed his days as a professional fighter were done.
But Curtis took some time to change nearly everything in his life, and he began another run in earnest, hoping to get to the sport’s biggest stage.
“During PFL, man, I had just moved to Vegas, a new camp,” Curtis said. “Everything was new. A lot of weird stuff going on in my personal life, and it just wasn’t a great time for me, like as a person – not a fighter, but as a person, and that makes a difference, man. Like if you’re not in a great place, then you’re not going to perform.
“Since then, man, I’ve had a change of camps, change of scenery. Different people in my personal life have come and gone. But now my personal life, I’m in a great place. My son’s happy, my family’s happy like, I’ve got a great camp. I’ve got what I feel like are the coaches that I need around me.”
The results have shown.
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After a stunning first-round knockout of Phil Hawes at November’s UFC 268, Curtis (28-8 MMA, 2-0 UFC) returned at Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 31, stepping in on short notice to face highly touted prospect Brendan Allen (17-5 MMA, 5-2 UFC). Curtis once again played the role of spoiler, scoring a first-round TKO victory that also earned him a “Performance of the Night” bonus.
The win saw Curtis move to 6-0 in 2021, including two UFC wins, and he said he’s hoping to keep the momentum going.
“I just changed tax brackets twice in four weeks, six weeks, so I am down to fight again next week,” Curtis said. “I don’t care. Like, I’m 34, man. I’m getting a lot of gray (hairs) right now, so I am just trying to stack up as much money as I can, as quick as possible, and just have fun, man. Like, I love fighting.
“Fighting’s my job. There’s a lot of people in this sport who like to compete, people who like to win, but very few people in the sport, I promise you, enjoy the act of fighting. I genuinely enjoy the act of violence. I enjoy fighting other people.”
That joy is certainly evident when Curtis competes, and it’s incredibly clear when the longtime veteran looks back on what has been a life-changing year. He looks to keep it going strong in 2022, and if you’re along for the ride, he’s happy to have you.
But if you want to just label him a journeyman who’s gotten a few lucky results, he’d just as soon tell you to kick rocks.
“I want to be respected and feared, but apparently it’s just not in the cards for me,” Curtis said. “I don’t have the personality or like, you know, I’m not 37-0, so at this point, I’m just going to have to keep being the guy everybody’s like, ‘Oh, he sucks.’ I beat him up, then they’ll find a reason why that he lost, and it’s fine. I don’t care.
“At this point, screw you guys. You can either ride with me or not. I got the people around me who will ride with me, so the rest of you guys? I love all my fans out there. They’re bringing so much support. You guys are great. Everybody else can go screw yourself.”
To see the full interview with Curtis, check out the video above.
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