Despite a colossal hype job from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), nobody was really sure what to make of welterweight newcomer Khamzat Chimaev, who burst onto the scene in summer 2020 with three straight wins, all of them finishes.
Then came a violent, one-sided shellacking of Top 15 veteran Li Jingliang and “Borz” proved the hype was justified. And since that UFC 267 destruction of “The Leech,” it’s been difficult for matchmakers to find Chimaev another opponent.
But are fighters actually afraid to fight Chimaev?
“Yes, 100 percent. Nobody wants to fight this guy,” UFC President Dana White told the Jim Rome podcast (transcribed by MMA Junkie). “Everybody wants to get out on social media and say this or say that. But when it really comes down to it, nobody’s trying to fight Khamzat Chimaev. I don’t blame them. But at the end of the day when you’re a professional fighter, this is what you do, you should look at a guy with as much hype and as much bravado as Chimaev has, as a huge opportunity.”
Chimaev, 27, remains undefeated at 10-0.
Among the fighters on social media claiming to be interested in fighting the Russian-born Swede are Neil Magny and Gilbert Burns, who are still unbooked at the time of this writing. I’m guessing neither of them took this advice from UFC castaway Kevin Lee.
It’s unlikely we’ll see Chimaev compete before the end of the year but with two big wins in early-to-mid 2022, there’s no reason the promotion can’t sell a welterweight title fight against reigning champion Kamaru Usman, assuming “The Nigerian Nightmare” doesn’t punch out and retire.