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Khamzat Chimaev coach may have revealed his next opponent ... and it’s not Kamaru Usman

Despite a last ditch push from Kamaru Usman to secure a fight against Khamzat Chimaev, it looks like the promotion is looking in another direction for Chimaev’s next fight in October.

UFC 279: Chimaev v Holland Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Sorry, champ.

A promotional post from one of Khamzat Chimaev’s coaches may have revealed the Chechen fighter’s next opponent ... and it’s not former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight kingpin, Kamaru Usman.

“Nigerian Nightmare” spent the past week in Las Vegas, Nevada, for International Fight Week and during his promotional appearances he tried to resurrect a potential showdown with “Borz.” The two had agreed to fight on social media, but UFC President, Dana White, was never a big fan of the matchup (details here). Something about Usman being a Welterweight and Khamzat Chimaev being banished to Middleweight.

And something about no Catchweights?

Now, it’s rumored that Jared Cannonier will fight Chimaev next, and Chimaev’s coaches just confirmed this in a recent Instagram story. Azamat “Ozzy” Dugulubgov posted a screenshot of himself, “studying the next opponent for the Borz,” and he carefully blanked out the fighter in question on his computer screen.

But, in this day and age, people can take the edge of a tree or a sign in the background and figure out what Starbucks you’re sitting in on the other side of the world. A Twitter user quickly decoded Dugulubgov’s picture to determine he was watching ... Jared Cannonier. We don’t agree with user “frontkicked” that this makes the fight a lock, but you can’t deny their analysis that it’s Cannonier in the video.

As we said: nothing is official. But, Chimaev is set to return at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and there’s a lot of smoke that implies he’ll be facing “The Killa Gorilla” next.

“Borz” hasn’t competed since Sept. 2022 when he missed weight badly for a scheduled squash match against Nate Diaz. The situation required a wild last-minute shakeup of the entire card, ending with Diaz leaving UFC on a win over Tony Ferguson. Khamzat squashed Kevin Holland instead, and maybe this extended break is just what a fighter gets when he completely borks a major UFC pay-per-view (PPV).

There’s no apparent hard feelings past that, though. White has insisted there’s no bad blood between him and Khamzat. The Abu Dhabi card is an extremely important one for UFC — its Middle Eastern partners literally saved parent company Endeavor’s bacon during the pandemic by allowing the promotion to run on “Fight Island” during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, in a way, it’s a vote of confidence in his star power that UFC has packed Chimaev (and Islam Makhachev) away for the better part of 2023.

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