Charles Jourdain is only getting better with time and, as he put it, he’s doing it, “Like a good bottle of wine.” The 27-year-old returns to action at UFC 288: Sterling vs Cejudo after dropping two of his last three fights by decision. Jourdain hasn’t been inside the Octagon since last September at UFC Paris, but after that fight with Nathaniel Wood, he knew he needed to take some time away to work on himself.
“The reason (for the time away) was I need to mature a bit because I've been on the unfortunate side of a couple decisions that, in many people’s eyes, I should have won,” Jourdain said. “It all came down to the fact that I'm very immature and I want to please the crowd more than to win and you cannot do that in UFC because your place, someone is trying to take it, so I need to win more than to please the crowd.”
When Jourdain made his UFC debut back in 2019, he was only 23 years old. The eight-month layoff that he had after his fight against Wood was the first official break that he has had since he began fighting when he was 16. There’s no doubt that the featherweight can’t wait to get back inside the Octagon, this time against featherweight Kron Gracie, but sometimes you have to take some time for yourself.
Now he awaits his moment on the main card of UFC 288 in front of a packed house at Prudential Center in Newark. Even though he understands how much of a factor the crowd has played in his last two fights, this time around he believes he’ll be relaxed on Saturday night.
“It's already my 11th fight in the UFC at only 27 years old, the biggest promotion in the world, the biggest crowd in the world, the best fans in the world, so I'm getting used to it,” Jourdain said. “I like it. Everybody's going to either cheer for him, or cheer for me. I think the fans are going to be the biggest winner that night, but I'm going to be a winner myself, as well.”
Of course, when the Octagon door closes, and the referee says “fight,” all respect between Jourdain and Gracie will go out the window. But for Jourdain, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has been a role model for him growing up. He has spent time watching YouTube videos on him and reading books from his father, Rickson Gracie.
Even though Gracie hasn’t fought since 2019, Jourdain knows that he will be no easy test, but after a tough training camp he believes he has it all figured out in order to leave victorious at the end of the night.
“My strength lies in speed, precision and the ability to control distance,” Jourdain said. “He just wants me to get overexcited and then pass under and get me to the ground. Of course, he's a phenomenal jiu jitsu player and I'm a black belt, as well. I’ve got a very good resumé when it comes to jiu jitsu in MMA. Now, I think it's all going to be a sprawling brawl. He is going to try to take me down and I'm going to try to defend and punch him in his face until he quits.”
When I asked Jourdain if this fight has Fight of the Night potential, he was honest and said no. Perhaps Performance of the Night might be a better fit if he knocks Gracie out.
“Kron eats a lot of punches, he ate Cub Swanson’s punches,” Jourdain said. “He never ate my punches and when I hit most of the guys, they go down pretty fast. Even though I am a volume puncher, when I get through with the right one, you go down.”
Earning a victory over Gracie would get “Air” back on track, starting his 2023 campaign off with a win and showing that he has matured and hopefully pushing him into the featherweight rankings.
“I deserve my spot against the Top 15 again because I had my shot against (Shane) Burgos, it slipped through my hands because of those judges, but that was on me,” Jourdain said. “I should have finished that fight. Now it will just prove that this layoff was very helpful for my mind and my body and just my vision of what I want to accomplish.
“Maturity, they say it's a good thing, and I'm getting better with time, like a good bottle of wine. Let's go with that.”
UFC 288: Sterling vs Cejudo took place live from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on May 6, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass