LAS VEGAS – Curtis Blaydes has come to terms with his “Knockout of the Year” contender loss to Derrick Lewis as he prepares to return to the octagon at UFC 266.

Blaydes (14-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) was on the cusp of a heavyweight title shot going into his fight with Lewis last February, but he was finished in devastating fashion and forced to regroup. He’ll make the first step in his rebuild Saturday when he takes on Jairzinho Rozenstruik (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), and Blaydes said he’s in a good place after the loss.

“That’s part of it,” Blaydes told MMA Junkie and other reporters at Wednesday’s UFC 266 media day. “Got to watch it. Happens in every sport. Happens in basketball if you end up in someone else’s highlight. There’s a reason they call it a highlight. They going to show it over and over. So, it was a little hard to watch initially. But after like the eighth time, it was like, ‘OK, this is going to be here.’ So I’m used to it now.”

Despite the setback in his previous outing, Blaydes thinks he’s got a good chance to bounce back. Rozenstruik is another striking-based opponent, and although the last fight against that style didn’t go so well, Blaydes sees the scales tipped in his favor.

“The majority of the division is predominantly going to be strikers,” Blaydes said. “So this is a matchup I’m used to, so I’m going to be comfortable with it. It’s not like he’s a southpaw or a taekwondo specialist. He’s a kickboxer. A heavyweight kickboxer. I’ve gone against those before. He is a heavyweight striker. I’m used to that, and it’s what I’ve prepared for the most against. I’m very comfortable with this matchup.”

Although he was talking a lot about a title shot going into the Lewis fight, Blaydes is realistic on where he stands in the division. He knows there’s a lot going on when it comes to the title picture, and at this point it’s on him to reinsert himself in the discussion with a strong performance at UFC 266.

“It’s not on the backburner – if they want to give me a title shot, hell yeah,” Blaydes said. “But I’m not expecting it because I understand where the division is, I understand there’s an alternate reality where I beat Jairzinho and I get Jon Jones. There’s an alternate reality where I get Stipe (Miocic). There’s an alternate reality where I get the loser of (Francis) Ngannou and (Ciryl) Gane. There’s too many alternate realities where I don’t get into it. I welcome everything.


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