It wasn’t that long ago that a fight between Paulo Costa and Khamzat Chimaev seemed like a sure thing for the UFC’s return to Abu Dhabi in October. With Costa coming off extended contract negotiations with the world’s largest MMA promotion, he and his manager both made it public that UFC officials were working on making Chimaev vs. Costa a reality.
“…[The UFC] really do see that the potential of a fight against Chimaev is gigantic,” Costa’s manager said back in March. “It’s Abu Dhabi, there’s that Asian market. They know Chimaev and Paulo have a true rivalry and that would help selling the fight.”
Whether it came down to issues with timing, money, or some other unforeseen complication, however, that fight no longer seems to be on the horizon. Instead, Costa has been set up in a fairly lackluster affair at UFC 291 against Islam Makhachev disciple Ikram Aliskerov.
Fresh off his UFC debut, where he picked up a first round KO of Phil Hawes, the 30-year-old Aliskerov sports a shiny 14-1 record in MMA. That single loss, though? It against to Khamzat Chimaev, back in 2019. For his part, ‘Borz’ wasn’t exactly impressed by the announcement of the Brazilian’s new booking.
“Paulo has spoken a lot of shit about me, ‘That guy, I want to smash him. I want to kill this guy.’ Doing a lot of things,” Chimaev said in a video blog released on his YouTube channel. “And he wants to fight with other guy? That guy? I fought him long time before—three, four years ago—before the UFC. I win against that guy. I think that guy will beat [Costa] as well. Paulo is not good. He’s shit, bro.”
Khamzat Chimaev targeting Kamaru Usman
With Costa seemingly out of the picture, what’s next for Chimaev? The 29-year-old hasn’t been seen inside the Octagon since September of last year, when he beat Kevin Holland in a short-notice booking at UFC 279. Chimaev had been set to face Nate Diaz in the PPV’s main event, but came in nearly 8-pounds over the welterweight limit for the bout. After months of speculation following the botched cut, the UFC announced that the Allstars Training Center fighter would continue his career up in the middleweight division.
Despite that move, it seems that another welterweight fighter is currently at the top of the list for potential next opponents. That’s after Usman called out the Chechen-born fighter back in May, saying it was the “biggest, funnest, most intense” bout on his radar.
“The UFC told us we’re going to fight in Abu Dhabi, so that’s what I’m waiting for,” Chimaev revealed. “I’m already here. I’m here in Dubai, living here. Training camp, everything is good. So I’ve been in shape a long time. I’ve been in Thailand in training camp, I’ve been here in training camp, I’ve been in Sweden training. I’m just waiting for the opponent, for the contract. We’ll see what’s going to happen.
“Usman wants to fight, I make [it] his last fight. He wants money, he knows where is the money, you know? Everyone knows the money. Now I’m going to fight this guy, in Abu Dhabi; smash his face, finish him. Then they’ll have to give me that title shot. There’s no money fights anymore, there’s only me. Because they know that Leon Edwards, they don’t give you that much money [to fight him], you know? If you fight with me, everyone knows it’s money fight.”
UFC targeting Islam Makhachev for UFC 294
Whatever ends up happening with Chimaev and his next UFC booking, the promotion has already made its plans clear for their Abu Dhabi PPV headliner. At UFC 289, this coming June, former lightweight champion Charles Oliveira is set to take on Beneil Dariush in the evening’s co-main event. Whoever comes out of that bout with their hand raised is likely to face Islam Makhachev later this year (assuming health and timing allows). In fact, even if ‘Do Bronx’ doesn’t make it to fight night, Dariush still gets a chance at gold.
“I said a couple of things: if this guy pulls out again, I want the title shot,” Dariush explained, when news broke that the first planned fight between he and Oliveira had been delayed. “And basically [I asked for] a pay bump, too. And [the UFC] agreed to both things, and that was pretty much it.”
As of yet, no bookings have been made official for the UFC 294 fight card at this time. But it seems likely that we’ll be seeing more concrete plans laid down in the coming weeks.
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