After more than a year’s absence, Khamzat Chimaev will return to action in Abu Dhabi this weekend as the co-headliner for UFC 294. The undefeated “Borz” faces former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman after original opponent Paulo Costa pulled out due to surgery requirements for a staph infection.
The said booking didn’t sit well with rising prospect Bo Nickal, who also believes the UFC is protecting Chimaev with the said booking.
Nickal has his theories on the Khamzat Chimaev-Kamaru Usman booking
In his most recent YouTube upload, Nickal expressed some disappointment about what he felt was a snub by the organization.
“I was disappointed they didn’t ask me to step in there,” he said. “I was expecting at least an ask like, ‘Hey, you want to to this?’ But, no. Just nothing. Nothing from the UFC. It is what it is.”
He then presented a theory, claiming that the UFC was protecting Khamzat Chimaev from a potential beatdown.
“I’m guessing they didn’t want me to roll over into Abu Dhabi on ten days’ notice and smash their boy in front of his home crowd or something.
“They didn’t even ask, it wasn’t an option. Like I said, there was probably a lot that went into that decision so we’ll do it another time.”
Nickal sees no upside in Usman’s involvement
Nickal did give credit to the said matchup between Khamzat Chimaev and Kamaru Usman. While he foresees a competitive fight, he sees no upside in Usman’s involvement, given a possible uncertainty about remaining at 185 pounds.
“Not too much of an upside, but for Usman, he’s already been a defending champion, and then just lost back-to-back [fights]. He’s not really in a great position. But it should be a good fight.
“[Usman’s] not going to stay at middleweight. I’ll bet any amount of money he doesn’t stay at middleweight, but maybe [if he gets Sean Strickland for the title]. That would be crazy because he’s never really been in my radar.”
Usman believes the Chimaev fight was ‘supposed to happen’
From his end, Usman began broaching the idea of a fight with Khamzat Chimaev in early 2022. And given the latter’s stints at welterweight, “The Nigerian Nightmare” believes it’s a bout that should’ve happened earlier.
“He was in my weight class so that fight naturally was what was supposed to happen and I said, ‘Alright, let’s do it. I’ve been ready for it, let’s do it,’” Usman said of Chimaev.
“But, of course, some things from his side about not being able to make the weight and also from the UFC side, they have their plans and so the fight didn’t come together.”
There’s been a lot of hype behind the 29-year-old Khamzat Chimaev. Oddsmakers expectedly have him favored against the 36-year-old former champion coming off two straight losses.
But odds aside, Usman likes his chances given the nature of the fight game.
“He’s definitely very talented. That’s why there’s a lot of excitement about him. We’ve seen these guys come in and a lot of different guys and you just see something special about him. We all know it. I know it, he knows it, everyone knows it.
“He’s very skilled. He’s strong, he’s big. He’s fast, he can wrestle, he can grapple, he can strike. He has everything but so do I.
“At the end of the day, we’re all human beings. Everybody feels invincible until someone comes in and pokes that balloon.”
UFC 294’s shake-ups
UFC 294 has been about the sudden line-up changes. Like the Khamzat Chimaev-Kamaru Usman situation, the headliner also saw a major shake-up when former champion Charles Oliveira pulled out due to an injury in training.
UFC 294 happens on Saturday, October 21st at the Etihad Arena.
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