When Jan Blachowicz has a bout scheduled in Las Vegas, he prefers to arrive early. Understandable, considering the nine-hour time difference between his native Poland and the current location.
Blachowicz (29-9, 18 finishes) booked his flights from Warsaw to London to Las Vegas on November 23, 17 days before to UFC 282 to face Magomed Ankalaev on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena. After the first leg, he settled in for a few hours of sleep and video games for his flight across the Atlantic.
During this time, the wheels of transformation were in motion on the earth. Due to a serious shoulder injury, Jiri Prochazka, who was supposed to defend his title for the first time in a repeat of an instant-classic battle with Glover Teixeira in the main event, was relinquishing the crown. After attempts to make Teixeira-Anakalev the new title bout failed, the UFC decided to elevate Blachowicz-Ankalaev to a bout for the vacant light heavyweight title.
Dorota Jurkowska, Blachowicz’s manager and fiancée, had already informed him of the increased stakes in his upcoming fight before he arrived, giving him the opportunity to reclaim the prize he had lost to Teixiera in October.
“I read the message four times, and I have no idea what she wrote to me,” Blachowicz told The Post via Zoom, recalling his surprise.
Blachowicz, who won the UFC champion for the first time in September 2020, returned to work after a few seconds to catch up with his trainers and allow the turn of events settle in. Even though the bout was now planned for five rounds as opposed to three, preparations were essentially unchanged.
Little alterations were made to account for the extended fight, but Blachowicz is accustomed to five rounds; his initially scheduled fight with Ankalaev was to be his first three-rounder since July 2019. Each of his last six competitions was scheduled for five rounds.
“Five rounds is my preference,” Blachowicz stated. “My cardiovascular fitness is adequate. I do not need to drastically alter everything. I recently altered my way of thinking.”
Even though Blachowicz won three of those five-round bouts inside the distance and went 5-1 overall, he prefers his performance when he has more time to work with. In March 2021, he successfully defended his championship against the middleweight champion at the time, Israel Adesanya. Three rounds in, the two champions were evenly matched, but the larger Blachowicz utilized his superior grappling to win the final two rounds and secure the decision.
According to Blachowicz, it allows him to “feel the flow.”
The 39-year-old, eight-year UFC veteran explains, “Of course, I’ve had a few victories in the first and second rounds, but I feel better when the battle goes longer.”
Ankalaev (18-1, 10 finishes), a 30-year-old from the MMA hotbed of Dagestan, Russia, has rarely shown weak en route to his first UFC championship shot. His only loss occurred in his UFC debut through tapout with one second remaining against submission ace Paul Crag, in a bout he appeared ready to win. Since then, he has amassed five (T)KO victories, and his latest four victories have come against men who were ranked in the top 15 in the UFC this year.
But in one of the only two rounds Ankalaev lost in the UFC — the second round of his only five-round bout with the promotion against Thiago Santos in March — he tasted the Brazilian’s power and was felled before recovering to win by decision. Blachowicz possesses, in his words, a great deal of Legendary Polish Power, and he must undoubtedly feel confident with this instrument in his arsenal. However, he is keeping his judgment of Ankalaev’s abilities and how the two match up close to the chest prior to the battle, stating merely that “he must be extremely excellent” based on Ankalaev’s track record.
With a victory, Blachowicz would become an unique two-time UFC champion. Knowing what it’s like to carry the title of world champion at 205 pounds, he desires this ambition “far more than the first time.”
“It’s like a drug; you just have to take it,” Blachowicz jokes of the thrill of winning a title. And I desire it.
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