Jan Blachowicz has a new best friend. The pair were inseparable at the beginning, doing everything together. But now, his pal sits under the TV at his house.
Hey, what else is the UFC light heavyweight champion supposed to do with his belt?
“First month, I wore him everywhere,” the jolly Blachowicz told The Post last week. “I sleep with him, go to take showers with him, stuff like this. But now, he is in a special place, under the TV, because I don’t like to watch TV too much. So I watch him.”
Clearly, the powerful-punching Pole revels in his status as undisputed 205-pound king of the octagon. He still gets a good-natured laugh from being called “Champ,” a moniker he earned with a second-round TKO of Dominick Reyes last Sept. 27 to claim the belt vacated by Jon Jones’ anticipated move up to heavyweight.
But if Blachowicz (27-8, 17 finishes) wants to retain current-champ status, he’ll have to give another reigning title holder the first blemish of his MMA career on Saturday at UFC Apex in Las Vegas. That’s when middleweight kingpin Israel Adesanya will move up in his attempt to become the latest “champ champ” in the main attraction of three title fights at UFC 259 on pay-per-view.
Unlike the unbeaten Adesanya (20-0, 15 finishes), Blachowicz suffered his share of L’s on the path to glory. After a run of success as light heavyweight champion with Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW), one of the top European promotions that’s based in his native Poland, he made a big impact with a TKO victory just under two minutes into his 2014 UFC debut. Then the wheels came off. He lost four out of five — all by decision — over the next two years. But Blachowicz maintains his confidence wasn’t shaken.
“I never hid under the bed after losing, didn’t cry for two weeks,” Blachowicz says. “I just tried to find the [reasons] why I’m losing the fight, what goes wrong, and don’t [make] the same mistake again.
“Of course, it’s bad. When you lose, you are sad and stuff like this, but then you find a way. I never stopped believing in myself. I never stopped believing in my skills. If I can be the best in the world, I just have to find a way how to do it.”
After the rough stretch, Blachowicz won eight of nine against some of the best competition of his career.
“I found a way,” said the 37-year-old, who had tasted defeat as far back as his pro debut 14 years ago. “A couple of mistakes in the past, but none of this happens without reason, so I learn from these mistakes, and right now, I am the best in the world.”
The same is said of 31-year-old Adesanya, the accomplished professional kickboxer who twice successfully defended his middleweight crown after knocking out Robert Whittaker to claim the undisputed title in October 2019. Like Blachowicz, he earned a championship victory at UFC 253, with the Nigerian-born New Zealander starching challenger Paulo Costa with a second-round TKO of his own in the event’s headliner.
A long and lanky career middleweight, Adesanya’s finishes have come via strikes, but he has gone the distance in five of his past eight fights, all against the tougher competition found in the UFC. Burly Blachowicz, meanwhile, says he walks around between fights at upwards of 255 pounds and is famed for his self-professed “legendary Polish power” that yielded (T)KOs in three of his four consecutive wins. As much as the 185-pound champ is praised for his striking offense, he has proved hittable, including while in possession of an 8 ½-inch reach advantage — and nine-inch edge in height — against Kelvin Gastelum in a five-round classic two years ago. Both the height and reach discrepancies are expected to be just two inches in his favor against the defending champion Saturday.
“Me and my coaches, we found good sparring partners to simulate [Adesanya’s] style, so I’m going to be ready for everything,” Blachowicz said with confidence. “And I’ll find a way how to get to his chin and knock him out or take him down and submit him.”
Blachowicz enters as a sizable betting underdog, just as he was seven times in this 8-1 run. That matters little to this champ, who says he never knows the odds until he’s asked about being on the wrong side of them.
“If you want to win some money, just put it on me,” Blachowicz advises, “and we’re going to celebrate together after the fight.”
It wasn’t long after his crowning victory when Blachowicz received word of the UFC’s plans to pit champ vs. champ. He was still on the plane ride home to Poland — where he would soon be greeted beyond his expectations as a conquering hero — when his manager got a text about the matchup, which he believes was originally suggested to be fought in December.
“Come on! I have to celebrate [my championship], and we’re going to have a baby soon.” Blachowicz recalls saying of the quick turnaround plan. “… No, no. It’s not a good time for me. But if they want to do the fight in March, that would be perfect.”
Once past the overwhelming welcome at the airport, Blachowicz received an “unbelievable” celebration in his hometown of Cieszyn. He estimated about 2,000 people came out to honor him, many of whom had watched his fight on a big screen at a nearby soccer stadium.
“I wish for everybody in the world to feel something like this, what I felt in this moment,” Blachowicz said. “It’s unbelievable.”
As much as Blachowicz adores his championship belt, he’s loving his other little best buddy even more: a son, born in December to he and fiancee Dorota Jurkowska. The champ and first-time father beams with pride in shared photos together, including one which shows the boy with his own little championship belt. And no, he didn’t have the belt made up for him. This one came straight from the UFC along with diapers and other essentials, unsolicited and unexpected. Maybe that makes him the official 15-pound world champion now?
“He is the champion,” Blachowicz jokes with a hearty laugh. “He was born, and he is a champion. I had to work for this all my life.”