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‘Surprise surprise’ - Khamzat Chimaev announces his return to competition

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The Chechen-born fighter out of Allstars in Sweden sounded like he was hanging up his gloves due to longhaul COVID symptoms earlier this month, but now he’s teasing his UFC return.

UFC Fight Night: Chimaev v Meerschaert Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Khamzat Chimaev hit the UFC like a hurricane in 2020. The Allstars Training Center talent had only six pro bouts before stepping into the Octagon against John Phillips at UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs. Ige, but demolished three opponents in just over two months to vault himself into the welterweight rankings and a booking against potential title contender Leon Edwards.

That Edwards bout never came to fruition, unfortunately—pushed back, and eventually cancelled after both men contracted COVID-19. For Edwards, his battle against the novel coronavirus resulted in a difficult few weeks, but a return to action earlier this month against Belal Muhammad. For Chimaev, the road has been longer and seemingly much more difficult.

“I think I’m done,” Chimaev said in a cryptic post on social media in early March. “Yes, I know that I didn’t take the belt, but this is not the most important victory in this life. It may upset you, but my heart and body tell me everything.”

Photos of a bloody sink and reports from Chimaev’s manager that the fighter had been struggling hard to regain his former fitness while still dealing with long-term symptoms of the disease – including fever, headaches, and muscle pain – were all signs that COVID was taking a heavy toll on the 26-year-old.

Still, shortly after Chimaev’s retirement announcement, Dana White denied that the streaking prospect was walking away from MMA. “He wants to fight like every f-cking weekend, and now he can’t even train. So he just got emotional and posted that. But he ain’t quitting,” White told reporters of ‘Borz’’s condition.

If pressure from the UFC boss wasn’t enough, Chimaev also got some stern words from none other than Chechyn dictator Ramzan Kadyrov. “I told him that ALL Chechens were upset by this news. I reminded Chimaev that the youth, whom he inspires, are pinning their hopes and expectations on his success...” Kadyrov wrote in a message on social media.

So perhaps it’s a little less than surprising then that the UFC welterweight took to social media on Tuesday, March 23rd, to make it clear that his days as a professional fighter were, indeed, not over.

No word yet on just when he’ll make his Octagon return, or against whom. Earlier reports from Chimaev’s camp pegged him to potentially be recovered by June. Whether or not he’s still on that time frame remains to be seen.