Jan Blachowicz was leaving the news conference after he defeated Aleksandar Rakiç in Las Vegas on May 14, 2022, when someone wished him luck. Glover Teixeira was preparing to fight Jiri Prochazka in a month for the light heavyweight title, and Blachowicz desperately wanted a crack at the winner.
When Blachowicz heard the wish of luck, he stopped momentarily, grinned and said, "Let's hope something good happens next."
Well, it turns out that something good — very good, actually — happened for Blachowicz, even though he didn't realize it so much when he signed a contract to fight Magomed Ankalaev in the co-main event of UFC 282.
That card is on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and Blachowicz is suddenly in the spot he was hoping to be as he left the news conference in May: He's in the main event fighting for the title.
When he left his native Poland to fly to Las Vegas, though, he had no idea.
He was on a plane to Las Vegas when news broke that Prochazka, who had submitted Teixeira in the waning seconds of their match at UFC 275, had injured a shoulder in training and had to pull out of the rematch. The Blachowicz-Ankalaev fight was elevated to the main event for the vacant title when Prochazka vacated it, though Blachowicz was wholly unaware.
"I never use WiFi when I'm on the plane," Blachowicz said. "It's like therapy for me: I forget about everything that's happening on the ground. I just enjoy the flight, play some games and stop thinking about the world."
When his plane touched down at Harry Reid International Airport, the world approached. He turned his phone on and he was bombarded with notifications of missed calls, emails and text messages.
"I knew something big had happened when I turned it on because this is very unusual, but I didn't know what it was," Blachowicz said.
He learned from his manager, who happens to be his fiancée, that the Prochazka-Teixeira fight was off and that he'd now be fighting five rounds for the title.
It didn't immediately register.
"After 10 hours in the air, I was tired, sleepy, just not totally into it and she said to me, 'Congratulations, you have a title shot,'" he said, chuckling. "I'm like, 'What?' She explained it to me and I was very excited. That was like the best news to wake up to."
Once on the ground, he had to prepare for a five-rounder instead of a three-rounder. He wasn't complaining, mind you, but those extra 10 minutes often separate the great from the near great.
Blachowicz had been eager to get another shot at the belt ever since he lost it to Teixeira in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, at UFC 267 on Oct. 30, 2021. Teixeira dominated the fight and submitted him in the second round to win the belt.
That loss stuck in Blachowicz's craw because he believed it wasn't him. His career turned around in his mid-30s and he legitimately became one of the world's elite 205-pounders. He scored wins over the likes of Israel Adesanya, Luke Rockhold, Dominick Reyes, Jacare Souza, Corey Anderson, Jared Cannonier and Nikita Krylov, among others. He was 9-1 in his last 10 heading into the Teixeira fight.
On that night, though, he wasn't himself.
"The one rematch I really want is the one with Glover because, I don't know, I didn't like how that went," he said. "It is what it is, but that's the one fight where I didn't [fight] the way I wanted to or can."
He didn't get an easy test, not that he wanted one. Ankalaev is 18-1 and is one second away from being 19-0. He was submitted with one second remaining in a 2018 fight with Paul Craig. He was ahead on the scorecards and would have won had he been able to hang on for one more second.
He's been highly impressive, never more so than he was during a second-round stoppage of Anthony Smith at UFC 277.
Blachowicz knows what he's in for.
"He's good; very good," Blachowicz said. "At this level, though, that's no surprise. When you are fighting for the title or close to title contention, you know the kinds of fights you're going to get."
He is eager to regain the title because he's such a competitor and it will set him up for a rematch with Teixeira. Blachowicz said that winning the title for the first time remains a monumental event in his life.
He became only the second UFC champion from Poland, following his long-time friend, former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. His life changed dramatically when Dana White wrapped the belt around his waist after he knocked out Reyes in a bout for the vacant title.
The reaction at home was over the top.
"It's hard to say in a few words how much my life changed, but believe me, my life changed dramatically," he said. "I have a lot more to do, which is fine, but I appreciate that because it brings joy to the people in Poland, a lot of whom are struggling. Me winning that belt was a huge thing for so many people at home, and while it changed my life a lot, it also did a lot for some people who didn't have a lot of good news in their lives."