Ahead of his big fight with Brazil’s Gilbert Burns at UFC 273, fast-rising UFC welterweight contender, Khamzat Chimaev appears to be looking past not just Burns, but also the current welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman.
Chimaev insists his actual test will come when he faces the middleweight champion, another Nigerian, Israel Adesanya.
The Chechen-Swede, Chimaev, holds an undefeated MMA record of 10 wins, four of them coming in the UFC. He took the welterweight division by storm with his explosive wrestling and brutal smashing style and has since destroyed all four opponents placed in front of him in a very quick fashion while suffering zero damage the entire time.
With each win, he has repeatedly called out the top fighters in the division, insisting none of them is ready for him, especially the champ, Kamaru Usman whom he promised to smash like everyone else.
With the winner of his fight with Burns almost guaranteed a title fight, one could expect Chimaev to relish that opportunity as he is the clear favourite going into the clash.
However, when asked at the UFC 273 press conference if he thinks fighting Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title was the biggest fight that could happen for him, Chimaev said he does not think so as he would rather fight the champion of the higher middleweight division, Israel Adesanya.
“I think people wanna see Izzy (Israel Adesanya) and me. But Usman, nobody knows that guy. And he’s old. Izzy is more fresh and young like me. I think he wants to fight me as well because he already fought with everyone at 84 kilos (middleweight). He’s like me, he wants to fight everyone and I wanna do the same,” Chimaev said.
For clarification, Usman will be 35 in May. A young fighter like Chimaev who will be 28 in May might consider Usman old, the champ at 35 is by no means old and is indeed well in his prime as a fighter.
Furthermore, Usman is arguably the most evolved fighter in the UFC today. Starting out as a wrestler, Usman’s earlier fights up until the fight against Tyrone Woodley where he became champ have been termed boring due to his over-reliance on wrestling. Even though the sport is Mixed Martial Arts, fans nonetheless want to see fighters knock other fighters out.
Usman knew he had to change if he must become the superstar people wanted to see so he put a lot of work into his boxing and overall striking. The result was outstanding. His title unification vs Colby Covington was an instant classic. Smashing Gilbert Burns was unbelievable. And that knockout of Jorge Masvidal was a beautiful work of pure violent art.
However, Usman has rapidly evolved his game. He has become an exciting fighter and regardless of what Chimaev thinks, people actually want to see him fight Usman more than Adesanya which many consider an easier fight for Chimaev due to Adesanya’s poor wrestling.
But this speaks to the overall confidence of Chimaev, currently ranked 11 in the UFC welterweight division. It perhaps also speaks to the career trajectory and road to domination he has carved out for himself. The UFC is built on hypes backed by action. And right now Chimaev is making it clear that once he takes the welterweight title from Usman, he is coming for Adesanya’s middleweight crown next.
“I’m already a champ. Everyone knows I’m already a champ. The guys, they don’t wanna fight me. Nobody cares about that (Usman vs Edwards) fight. Leon Edwards, nobody knows that guy. Usman is the same you know, nobody wants to see that guy. They want to see me there. If they give me both guys on the same night I’m gonna smash them both,” Chimaev said.
And he probably means every word of it.
The three-time Swedish National Wrestling Champion became the first guy in UFC history to fight twice in 10 days and win. To put this in context, most fighters take several months off before their next fights. And Khamzat has always expressed his willingness to fight more than once a single night.
If you consider the quick and easy way he dispatches his opponents while suffering zero damage, and the fact that his style doesn’t change as he simply forces his opponents to succumb to his superiority, you could see why he could actually compete twice in one night. But against top-level oppositions like Edwards and Usman, that will be a huge stretch.
Asked if it bothered him that Usman was helping his UFC 273 opponent, Gilbert Burns prepare for the fight, Chimaev couldn’t resist the opportunity to aim one last dig at the Nigerian Nightmare.
“Who does not want help (against me)? He can bring all the world, but it does not help him at all when he comes to the cage. He can bring all Nigeria if he wants, no problem.”
Kamaru Usman has said severally that he looks forward to fighting Chimaev if he makes it to the top. Well, a win for Chimaev against Number 2-ranked Burns could make that fight happen sooner rather than later.
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