Jan Blachowicz is a guy with a great sense of humor who laughs easily and never takes himself too seriously. Because English is his second language and because he only recently came into prominence, he’s still not widely known among MMA fans in the U.S.
But his name recognition shot up after he defeated middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in a bout in February.
On Saturday, the 38-year-old Blachowicz will defend his light heavyweight title for the second time when he faces 42-year-old Glover Teixeira in the main event of UFC 267 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.
When a reporter suggested to him this could be billed as the “Battle of the Grand Masters,” he quickly fired back.
“Maybe the winner could fight you,” he said to the reporter, who sadly is a lot older than 42 and not in shape to fight anyone. “After this hard fight we will have, we may need an easy one. What do you say?”
What Blachowicz has said from the beginning of his MMA career has always been yes. He’s never ducked an opponent and he’s always faced the elite challengers presented to him.
That’s prepared him in a way for his reign as champion, when there are no easy nights and the challengers are always at their best for what they know may be their last attempt to win the belt.
Blachowicz has never been one of the heralded guys or gotten a push to build his record. So he knows what it is to have to be intense and prepared each night.
“If you ever think it’s going to be easy, this is the wrong sport for you,” he said. “There are all tough guys in this sport. They all have their styles and what they do, but you can’t go in there expecting an easy night or you will get a big surprise.”
And so Teixeira will be only the most recent in a string of difficult opponents for Blachowicz, who has wins over Adesanya, Dominick Reyes, Corey Anderson, Jacare Souza, Luke Rockhold, Jimi Manuwa and Jared Cannonier, among others, during his UFC run.
In the last four years, Blachowicz is on a 9-1 run where the majority of those big wins have come. He said the reason is simple: Experience. Fighting the best has taught him not only a lot about the sport, but about himself.
“I know what I need and what is best for my body,” he said. “I know when to push it and I know when to take a break. And I know what I need to work on and it’s just helped me to evolve and keep getting to that next level, the next level, the next level.”
He’s facing a rejuvenated Teixeira, whose won five in a row and six of his last seven. In 39 pro fights, he’s lost seven times, including three by knockout.
Blachowicz’s goal is to make it four.
“That’s the way to go if you can, because then there are no questions, no judges to worry about,” said Blachowicz, who has eight wins by knockout and nine by submission among his 28 career victories. “Of course I want to knock him out if I can. That’s what I’m going to try to do.”
His confidence, both in his power and in doing what needs to be done in the moment, shot up in the aftermath of an impressive and crushing KO victory over Rockhold, the ex-middleweight champion, at UFC 239 on July 6, 2019.
He dominated that fight from the start and knocked Rockhold out in the second round with a crushing left hook that broke his jaw.
That win was the first of his current five-bout winning streak and affirmed in his mind that he is a legitimate contender.
“Knocking a guy out of his caliber was important,” Blachowicz said. “It let me know what I was doing was right and that the things I was doing to [prepare] were working. He’s a guy who was a champion and who had done a lot of great things in this sport. That helped me to take myself even farther.”
He can’t get much farther than he’s gotten, as the UFC champion. The question now is staying on top. Only the best of the best retain the title for more than a defense or two.
Blachowicz wasn’t a household name when he started in the UFC, but he may yet become one.