Better Chimaev fight? Ex-champ saves UFC 294 co-main event

UFC 294 now features a new co-main event to go with its new main event. Khamzat Chimaev will face an ex-champ in about announced today.

By: Nate Wilcox | 2 months ago
Better Chimaev fight? Ex-champ saves UFC 294 co-main event
IMAGO | USA TODAY by Joe Camporeale

The Khamzat Chimaev vs Paulo Costa bout at UFC 294 is no more

In July, UFC and PowerSlap CEO Dana White announced that the undefeated Khamzat Chimaev would make his long-awaited return to the Octagon at UFC 294 against Paulo Costa. The two had been seemingly on a collision course since September 2022 when they scuffled at the UFC Performance Institute.

Alas, Costa had a difficult set of contract negotiations and Chimaev (12-0, 6-0 in the UFC) seemingly faced intractable Visa issues in getting into the U.S. (read this for some background on why that may be). It seemed they solved the latter by booking him on UFC 294, a card being held in the United Arab Emirates.

Unfortunately, although Costa’s contract issues are seemingly resolved, a staph infection following his recent surgery has taken him out of the bout.

“I got Staphylococcus bacteria inside my elbow and doctors is pulling me out the Fight,” Costa tweeted.

“This message goes to my fans. Unfortunately, I am hospitalized and had to do a second surgery yesterday. According to doctors, a third surgery will be necessary on Friday. So, I will not be medically cleared to fight on October 21st The Abu Dhabi card still amazing I’m no happy but that’s it . I will be back before end 2023,” Costa followed up in a second tweet.

Combine with the recent loss of Charles Oliveira in the lightweight title main event and something had to be done. Something big.

Dana White pulls Kamaru Usman out of his hat for UFC 294

Fortunately Dana White and his matchmaker Sean Shelby are resourceful fellows and they have booked former welterweight champ Kamaru Usman to face Chimaev. The news comes via Marc Raimondi.

Usman, a 36-year-old Nigerian-American with a 20-3 overall MMA record (15-2 in the UFC), was the UFC welterweight champion from 2019 to 2021, reeling off five straight title defenses before suffering a shocking loss to current champ Leon Edwards at UFC 278. Edwards won with a head kick KO in the final minute of the final round of a fight in which Usman was seemingly cruising to an easy decision win.

Unfortunately for Usman, Edwards went on to dominate him for a unanimous decision win at UFC 286. UFC 294 will be Usman’s first fight back since that loss.

Two former welterweights meeting at middleweight

The UFC rankings currently have Usman as the #1 contender in the welterweight (170lbs) division with Chimaev at #4. Which is interesting but irrelevant since this bout will taking place at the middleweight limit of 185 pounds. Presumably this will make it somewhat easier for Usman to handle taking such a high-profile fight on two weeks notice.

For his part, Chimaev is moving back to the middleweight division after a three-fight welterweight run that saw him miss weight by 7 pounds at UFC 279. He had been scheduled to humiliate Nate Diaz in the main event but fought a catchweight bout with Kevin Holland instead.

Chimaev was unrepentant at the time saying, “You care about that ——? I don’t care,” said Chimaev during his post-fight press conference. “I care about my family. I care about my career. I care about my money. So, what now? The people don’t leave me. One day they’re with me, one day they’re not with me.

“So, I’m real, guys,” continued Chimaev. “I like people that are real. Not fake people going one way or going the other way.”

Join the new Bloody Elbow

Our Substack is where we feature the work of writers like Zach Arnold, John Nash and Karim Zidan. We’re fighting for the sport, the fighters and the fans. Please help us by subscribing today.

Share this story

About the author
Nate Wilcox
Nate Wilcox

Nate Wilcox is the founding editor of As such he has hired every editor and writer to work for the site. Wilcox’s writing for BE is known for its emphasis on MMA history, the evolution of fighting techniques and strong opinions. Wilcox developed the SBN MMA consensus rankings which were featured in USA Today from 2009 to 2011. Before founding BE, Wilcox was a political operative working for such figures as Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and an early political blogger. He is the co-author of Netroots Rising, a history of the political blogosphere from 2003 to 2007. Wilcox also hosts the Let It Roll podcast on music history for the Pantheon Podcast Network.

More from the author

Bloody Elbow Podcast
Related Stories