Curtis Blaydes: UFC 304 fight vs. Tom Aspinall for ‘real belt,’ Jon Jones won’t unify with winner

Curtis Blaydes isn’t holding out hope that Jon Jones will unify the heavyweight championship with the winner of his UFC 304 co-main event vs. Tom Aspinall.

With Jones (27-1 MMA, 21-1 UFC) recovering from injury and holding out for a title defense vs. Stipe Miocic (20-4 MMA, 14-4 UFC) on Nov. 9 at Madison Square Garden in New York, the UFC booked a rematch with eager interim champion Aspinall (14-3 MMA, 7-1 UFC) against Blaydes (18-4 MMA, 13-4 UFC) on July 27 at Co-op Live in Manchester, England.

In ordinary circumstances, the winner of Jones vs. Miocic would face the winner of Aspinall vs. Blaydes. It remains to be seen what Miocic would do with an upset victory, but the majority of expectations are for Jones to win and potentially retire. “Bones” teased he would make the unification happen when he dubbed Aspinall vs. Blaydes as a fight for the No. 1 contender spot, but that’s far from a commitment.

Aspinall has made it clear he thinks Jones won’t fight him, and Blaydes is in the same boat.

“If I win or if Aspinall wins, I don’t think Jon’s going to fight anyone outside of Stipe,” Blaydes told MMA Junkie on Friday. “After Stipe, he walks away into the sunset. I think he likes to toss out different scenarios like, ‘What if I fought Alex Pereira? What if I fought Aspinall? What if I fought Blaydes?’ He wants people to talk about him, which I get. The more you get talked about the better your following grows and it helps your sponsors. I get it. He’s skilled at it. He’s been on the internet for as long as I’ve had Facebook and Instagram, he’s always been a presence. He knows what he’s doing. But do I honestly believe he would risk his legacy against a guy like me? No. Cause if he beats me, what does it do for his legacy?

“Are you going to be like, ‘Oh, that was the fight that finally cemented Jon as the GOAT.’ Either you believe he’s the GOAT already, or you don’t. It’s like MJ vs. LeBron. If you already don’t believe that LeBron is the GOAT, there isn’t anything he can do to change your mind, and vice versa. If you already believe he is the GOAT. However you view Jon Jones at this moment or after he fights Stipe, that’ll be the lasting image. And I don’t think he’s going to do anything to jeopardize that.”

Blaydes, 33, said he’s not going to “hold my breath” for a clash with Jones to ever materialize, so in his mind, that raises the stakes for UFC 304. If Jones does indeed retire after Miocic, that would elevate the Aspinall vs. Blaydes winner from interim to undisputed champion. In Blaydes’ mind, though, that’s essentially what he’s already competing for.

“That’s how I’m viewing it (as an undisputed title fight),” Blaydes said. “That’s how I’m approaching it. When I told my family, my brothers, my dad, my sister, ‘I’m fighting for a belt.’ I didn’t say interim belt. I said a belt. Honestly, a majority of casual fan, they don’t know the difference. I’m sure a lot of them are probably perplexed like, ‘How does Aspinall have a belt and Jon have a belt?’ They probably don’t understand the concept of interim vs. undisputed, and they don’t care. All they see is a shiny belt and you holding it in a UFC octagon. That’s all they need. So to me, it is the real belt.”

When forecasting the future with an interim title win, Blaydes thinks it won’t be an easy process to get his undisputed status. His many years of observing Jones and his behavior leads Blaydes to think the heavyweight division is in for another messy stretch, but eventually he thinks Jones will be stripped or relinquish the strap.

“It’s not going to be a smooth transition of power,” Blaydes said. “He’s not going to just – I know I said he’s going to walk off into the sunset, but I meant he’s going to ‘retire’ unofficially, but he’s not going to officially retire for who knows. It could be a year, a year-and-a-half. However long the UFC allows him to string it along, he’ll do it.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 304.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie