UFC 294 was a big moment for the promotion’s talent from the Russian Caucuses. Islam Makhachev shown bright in the main event with a head kick KO over featherweight great Alexander Volkanovski, while Ikram Aliskerov, Muhammad Mokaev, and Said Nurmagomedov all picked up fantastic additions to their highlight reels.
In the co-main event, prodigy talent Khamzat Chimaev snagged a hard fought decision victory over former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Despite neither of them holding a spot in the middleweight rankings—or even having competed in the division over the last three years—the bout was announced as a de facto top contender’s fight, with a chance to face champion Sean Strickland going to the winner.
UFC champ Sean Strickland doesn’t see Khamzat Chimaev as a deserving contender
To that end, Chimaev walked away with his hand raised, and with the UFC clearly intent on matching him up with the Xtreme Couture trained title holder.
“Khamzat, the winner of this fight was billed as the next title challenger for the middleweight championship,” Daniel Cormier told ‘Borz’ in the Octagon after his victory. “Sean Strickland is the champion. What does it mean to you to look down the line and see that you’re potentially going to get a title fight?”
More later on what Chimaev thought, but for the moment Sean Strickland had his own take on the idea. Notably that while he wouldn’t turn down a fight with Chimaev, he didn’t see it as a very logical booking.
“The only thing I like about Chimaev is that he sells fights,” Strickland said in an interview shortly after the event . “For some reason, people f—ing like him or don’t like him. I don’t know. To me, he’s a f—ing paycheck. He sells a lot of fights. People pay to watch.
“But, f—ing he hasn’t earned it, he doesn’t f—ing deserve it. But here we are. Give it to him. He sells a lot of fights. I’ll go f—ing fight the man for five rounds. But no, he has not earned it, he doesn’t f—ing deserve it, and getting a decision with a welterweight off the couch does not f—ing earn it.”
Sean Strickland has ‘true story’ about Khamzat Chimaev
Speaking to Sean Strickland Extra Rounds host TJ De Santis highlighted recent quotes by the longtime Allstars Training Center athlete about how Chimaev has said that he’s not very impressed with the champion’s skills. Quick to defend his reputation, Strickland recalled an incident that he had with Chimaev when they were both working out of the same gym.
“Let me tell you about Chimaev, you guys,” Strickland continued after his title shot rant. “This is a f—ing true story. And, you know, since we’re going to talk about training: One day I made fun of the Chechnyan and he misunderstood what I said. It was more of, like, a compliment to the fighter, and he sent me a message talking shit. And I said, ‘Chimaev, you misunderstood, but I will see you tomorrow, at 3 o’clock. Gloves or no gloves, turn up. And then, guess what? No show, no answer. We talked it out. He said, ‘No no no, it’s okay. We talk about it.’
“There’s a thing about Chimaev: The man can f—ing fight. The man can fight, we all know that. He beat Usman to a decision, you know. Usman will retire, but whatever. He still did it. But, me and him are f—ing different. Chimaev can be right here [points at floor]; I will fight that man to the death right here, knowing I’m gonna die. That ain’t f—ing Chimaev, dude.”
Does Khamzat Chimaev even want to fight for the belt?
As aforementioned, Khamzat Chimaev’s response to Daniel Cormier’s question is as worthy of note as Strickland’s reaction to the whole situation. The UFC commentator seemingly put the 29-year-old on the spot for an easy promo to announce himself as the clear and obvious next contender for middleweight gold. But given that option, Chimaev sounded more reluctant than anything.
“I don’t know, man, what to say. I’m just—I didn’t come here for the titles. I just make money and be happy, fight somebody. And the guys: Dana [White], Hunter [Campbell], thank you for everything… Because of these guys I am who I am today.”
That may be in part because Chimaev has his mind on other, bigger issues than just fighting. Alongside talking about his win over Usman and a future fight against Strickland, Chimaev also gave an impassioned plea for peace amid the ongoing war between Israel and Palestine. While his words in English were clearly heartfelt and impassioned, he had another message for Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov as well.
“Chief, may Allah be pleased with you, it is not difficult to perform here and fight for you here,” Chimaev said in his native Chechen. “If you give me permission, I swear by Allah, I will be the first to go there [to Palestine]. For God’s sake, give me weapons so I can go to Palestine. I swear, I wasn’t raised to fight in shorts. I swore allegiance to our chief and I swear, if he gives me the right, I am the guy who will go and die there. I don’t worry about my own death as much as I worry about [the death of] my Muslim brothers.”
It may be that Chimaev is less than interested in fighting for UFC gold because he sees his next battle outside the Octagon. If that’s the case, it seems unlikely that any trash talk from Strickland or fight offers from the UFC would be likely to sway him.
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