For a relatively new UFC fighter sitting down at No. 11 on the Welterweight rankings, Khamzat Chimaev has a lot of hype. That’s partially because of his explosive schedule upon arrival: the Chechen fighter fought three times in two months, mauling all three opponents with little damage taken.
Then COVID-19 came and slowed down “Borz.” Chimaev didn’t return to the cage for more than one year, but the results once he was in there were the same: another fast first round finish ... and another fight without any damage taken.
Now, Khamzat is set to face No. 2-ranked Gilbert Burns at UFC 273 on April 9, 2022, a massive step up in competition. So much so that some are criticizing UFC for putting the fight together, asking what names Chimaev really beat to deserve a Top 3-ranked opponent.
In the words of Welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, “Chimaev hasn’t even beat anyone yet.” In a video with The Mac Life, Khamzat defended his resume.
“Who did like, go in the cage, 10 fights, 10 finishes?” Chimaev asked. “The guys tell like, ‘Oh, he didn’t fight this guy. He didn’t fight that guy.’ But, the guys who’s the best guys, Jon Jones. His first four fights in UFC, he get the punch. I didn’t get the punch.
“We don’t say his first fights, he didn’t get the best ones; the guys, you know, like, super good guys. Nobody. Conor [McGregor] didn’t get that, crazy good guys in their first fights. Nobody. Khabib didn’t get crazy good guys. I just need the time.”
Chimaev’s four opponents from earliest to most recent are John Phillips, Rhys McKee, Gerald Meerschaert and Li Jingliang. Meerschaert and Jingliang are definitely no slouches, and combined the four at the time of fighting Chimaev held a 81-30-1 record. That’s a hell of a lot more fighting experience than Jon Jones’ four first UFC opponents (34-8), Conor McGregor’s first four (47-15) and Khabib Nurmagomedov’s first four (60-16-3).
While the winning percentages on their opponents’ records may be slightly higher, Khamzat’s opponents held more than 20 more wins and double the total fights of all but Nurmagomedov’s opponents.
Regardless, Chimaev’s argument had more to do with big name opponents coming later in a fighter’s UFC career. And he certainly has a big name coming up. At UFC 273, he’ll be facing the 20-4 Gilbert Burns and all questions will be answered regarding Khamzat’s dominance being a matter of undeniable champion level skill or inexperienced competition.