Khamzat Chimaev is said to be planning a return soon, but if Luke Rockhold is to be believed, the heavily hyped prospect has no interest in having him as his next opponent.
The former UFC middleweight champion told Ariel Helwani that he was offered to face Chimaev twice, a main event on August 28 and a three-round affair for UFC 265. Rockhold claims that Chimaev turned down both offers, and that he would stay at 170 lbs instead.
“All respect but I thought he would fight anyone,” Rockhold said about Chimaev.
Chimaev has constantly talked big about his willingness to beat anyone at any weight, from middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, even all the way up to light heavyweight against the champion Jan Blachowicz. After all that smack talk, declining this high profile bout is certainly not a good look, but his decision is logical.
Not only is Rockhold a tough match up being a massive middleweight and a high level grappler, it’s also time to taper expectations for Chimaev anyway.
Chimaev was heavily hyped and pushed by the UFC after getting three wins in two months. The 9-0 Chechen seems like an A+ prospect, but we actually still know very little about him, and he hasn’t faced the best opposition yet. Two of his three opponents have been released after going a combined 1-7 in the UFC, while his best win is over Gerald Meerschaert, a quality vet, but has also lost five of his last eight.
There’s also his concerning battle with COVID-19, which had longterm effects on his body that was serious enough to make him prematurely announce a retirement. The undefeated prospect is already largely untested, and there is also even more uncertainties after a year out due to serious health issues.
Declining a big name is not good for optics as it’s completely opposite from Chimaev’s brand and image, but staying at welterweight with a moderate step up in competition is probably the smarter career move at this point.