Curtis Millender plans home run KO at UFC 236 before dedicating summer to grappling
ATLANTA – Curtis Millender intends on proving his ground game wasn’t exposed in his most recent fight with a rebound performance at UFC 236.
Just five weeks after Millender (17-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC) was taken down and quickly submitted by Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos at UFC on ESPN+ 4, he makes a quick turnaround for Saturday’s welterweight matchup with Belal Muhammad (14-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC). Afterward, he received much criticism about his ground game.
Millender, 31, said he doesn’t wear losing well and pursued another fight immediately to “get that smell off of me.” Fortunately, the UFC had a slot open at UFC 236 and he was booked against Muhammad.
Although training camp was limited, Millender claims he “dusted off the Gi” and grappled more than usual for this fight. He said he intends on continuing that trend after UFC 236 by joining any kind of jiu-jitsu, catch wrestling or grappling-based tournaments he can find throughout the summer. Because while he doesn’t think his ground game is as bad as perceived from his loss, he said he knows that’s where most opponents will try to take him.
“The cat’s not out of the bag,” Millender told MMA Junkie. “That’s always been in the chink in my armor; you’ve got to take me down if you want to try to win. But I just got to let these dudes know this (expletive) isn’t going to be easy every time. … Just because you’ve been doing something for so long you’ve got to continue doing it. You can’t just learn it and stop using it because you get good at something else. That’s one of the biggest things I learned.”
UFC 236 takes place at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The welterweight bout between Millender and Muhammad is part of the early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, which comes prior to televised prelims on ESPN and the pay-per-view main card.
Millender said the loss to Zaleski dos Santos didn’t cause frustration, but instead just stirred up emotions of wanting to get back in the octagon to right the wrong. “Curtious” was on a nine-fight winning streak prior to the encounter, and he said he wants that momentum back.
The expectation from Millender is that Muhammad will try to make it a grinding fight and take him down to the ground, especially after the last result. Muhammad has shown a tendency to be lured into a brawl, though, and regardless of which way he decides to be aggressive, Millender has confidence in his ability to finish the fight by the second round.
“That’s all I can think about is winning and making it look easy,” Millender said. “That’s still the same goal. Nothing else has changed. … He’s going to keep moving forward. I love a pitcher than throws fastballs. I’m going to keep knocking them out of the park every time. It’s going to be fun.”
To hear more from Millender, check out the full interview above.