The amount of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters who have contracted COVID-19 over the past year is significant, and we assume there are more than a few serious cases where fighters struggled to recover from the potentially deadly illness. As it stands, the big UFC names who have been affected most by coronavirus are Cody Garbrandt, Khamzat Chimaev and Featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski.
Garbrandt and Chimaev are what’s known as COVID long-haulers, people who have recovered from the virus but suffered through side effects for months afterward. Garbrandt told some pretty scary stories about blood clots, while Chimaev seemed on the edge of retirement at one point as he coughed up blood every time he exerted himself.
Fortunately, it now sounds like both are feeling better. Garbrandt fights Rob Font on May 22, 2021, and Khamzat? According to a new interview with his manager Ali Abdelaziz, he may be back as soon as the end of summer.
“He had a procedure ... actually, his first day of training was three days ago,” Abdelaziz told MMA Junkie. “He’s coming back with a vengeance, man. He has so much to prove. He was the guy main-eventing. Guess what? COVID rules the world right now, and COVID got him. You see Alexander (Volkanovski), the featherweight champion. I hope he’s OK. He had some problems with it. Khamzat had some problems with it. Now he’s 100 percent healthy. He’s back training this week or last week.”
Three days ago, this week, next week, eh, what’s the difference! The important thing is this is not a problem any more! Truth be told, Ali’s comments seemed a little back and forth, both promising and cautioning.
“We’ll see him at the end of July, August,” he said. “Even Dana was asking me the other day. I told him the end of July or August he’ll fight. I told Sean (Shelby), too. Realistically, I think it’s time to slow it down a little bit, but I think he’s going to make a (bigger) statement on the comeback. He’s going to keep climbing. He’s a special talent. He’s a superstar, I believe, in the making. All of us will see. Everyone who understands MMA will understand what Khamzat brings. It is what it is, and we have to move on. Sickness can’t control that.”
We’re really just hoping that Khamzat feels as good as everyone around him is saying. After the Chechen fighter’s apparent retirement post, Dana White quickly corrected the record, saying he wasn’t quitting. Chechen leader / dictator Ramzan Kadyrov put out a statement insisting Chimaev would return better than ever. Indeed, a whole lot of people have insisted that “Borz” will be fine ... even in the midst of him clearly not being fine medically.
Of course we want Chimaev back. He was the biggest hype machine of 2020 and now we’re on the verge of seeing whether he can really hang at the top of the Welterweight and Middleweight divisions. But, after he fought at every opportunity in 2020, we think he deserves to take as much time as he needs before returning in 2021.