LAS VEGAS – Just 16 months into his octagon run, Chris Daukaus is absolutely thrilled to be headlining his first UFC event, especially since it’s all playing out exactly as he assumed it would.
“This is exactly how I drew it up,” Daukaus joked with MMA Junkie at Wednesday’s media day at the UFC Apex. “No, I had no idea this was going to happen, but this is awesome, and I’m running with it. I absolutely love this.”
Daukaus’ UFC run couldn’t have gone much better thus far, with four fights, four stoppage wins, and three “Performance of the Night” bonuses. He’s now being rewarded with his first main event, headlining Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 199 event, which streams live on ESPN+ from the UFC Apex.
“It’s definitely different in a lot of ways, but it’s awesome,” Daukaus said. “Obviously, I have more media obligations and more things to do, but this is something that I wanted. It’s something that, you know, every fighter’s dream is to main event a UFC card. So why not? I mean, it would be a little better if was pay-per-view, but you know, we’ll talk about that later.”
Daukaus (12-3 MMA, 4-0 UFC) takes on vaunted slugger Derrick Lewis (25-8 MMA, 16-6 UFC) in the night’s headliner. It’s a big step up for the former CFFC champ, who currently sits at No. 14 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie heavyweight rankings. Lewis is all the way up at No. 4, but Daukaus said it could have been reigning champ Francis Ngannou or interim titleholder Ciryl Gane on his bout agreement, and it wouldn’t have changed a thing.
“I’m ready for anyone in the division,” Daukaus said. “It could’ve been Francis or Ciryl for a belt. I’m ready for any of them. It’s just about gameplanning.
“I’m ready to go. There was never any question about whether I was ready to handle this or able to handle any of this. I’m 100 percent in, and I’m ready to go.”
As the new kid on the block, Daukaus admits he’s been watching his current peers put in work years before he made it the promotion. But he’s certainly not going to be starstruck, even if he has enjoyed watching “The Black Beast” perform.
“Who doesn’t know who Derrick Lewis is?” Daukaus asked. “Like, yeah, I’ve been watching Derrick Lewis for years. I like him as a fighter, as an individual. I mean, I haven’t met him, but I like his personality that he portrays. I find that enjoyable. So I’ve nothing bad to say about Derrick, except, you know, we’re going to go get into a fistfight, and I really hope that I knock him out.”
If Daukaus can rack up a signature win like Lewis, he will certainly skyrocket up the rankings even faster than his current pace. That said, the 32-year-old Philadelphia native said he’s not putting too much energy into thinking where exactly he’ll stand after the fight.
“My sole focus is Derrick,” Daukaus said. “No one knows what the hell’s going on with the heavyweight elite, at the top three people. I mean, you’ve got Francis and Ciryl fighting in January, and you don’t know if there’s going to be an immediate rematch. You don’t know what Stipe (Miocic) is doing, if he’s holding out for a title shot. You don’t know what he’s doing. And then, freakin’ Jon Jones, his name always gets brought up, but he hasn’t fought in four years or however long he’s fought, so I’m not holding my breath for him, either.”
Still, it’s unquestionable something big will come Daukaus’ way should he deliver in his first headlining slot. He knows it, but he’s not going out of his way to do anything different than he’s done the first four times he’s stepped in the UFC’s famed octagon. After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
“The only thing I have to do is just get a win,” Daukaus. “I get the win, my name gets right where his was – top three, top four in the division, and then we’ll go from there about who we’re going to fight because I don’t see a lot of people I have to fight before I get to the belt.”
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