UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya withstood the challenge of Robert Whittaker last time out at UFC 271. In February he defeated ‘The Reaper’ by unanimous decision to claim his fourth UFC title defence.
Adesanya won his belt from Whittaker back in 2019, with a second round KO at UFC 243. Since then he has beaten Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori. His only blemish over this time, and his MMA career as a whole, is a loss to Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259 last March when Adesanya unsuccessfully challenged for the Pole’s UFC light heavyweight title.
Adesanya’s current field of challengers includes Jared Cannonier, who defeated Derek Brunson at UFC 271, and—further down the list—Sean Strickland, Jack Hermansson and Darren Till.
One fighter who is not ranked at middleweight, but will say he’s ready to fight Adesanya tomorrow is Khamzat Chimaev—the hottest prospect in pro MMA.
Chimaev has taken bouts at welterweight and middleweight during his short but impressive tenure in the UFC. The 10-0 Chechen-born Swede is currently ranked eleventh in the welterweight rankings thanks to a submission over Li Jingliang in his last contest.
Chimaev is now due to face the second ranked Gilbert Burns, with a win likely to catapult him into the title picture at 170 lbs.
Adesanya was asked about Chimaev during a recent appearance on the True Geordie podcast. It’s safe to say that Adesanya doesn’t see Chimaev as a threat, but that this might change in the near future.
“I don’t have to take him seriously till I have to take him seriously,” Adesanya said (ht bjpenn.com). “And that’s a guy that definitely, I’d like to fight – if he does what he says he wants to do – because guess what? He will bring in a lot of eyes.”
“He’s on his way, but show me something first,” Adesanya continued. “His last fight made me take notice. That was one where I was like, ‘Ooh.’ I know how Jingliang is – he’s good. … There was something he did in that fight – I won’t give it away, but I was like, ‘Hmm, I like that.’ I was really impressed with (what he did).
“So that’s what made me take notice of him properly. But at the moment, still, it’s just barking in the wind because who’s he fought at 185? Look, he can beat a lot of these guys at 185, a lot of the top guys, from what I’ve heard. But let me see it first and then we’ll start talking before all this hype around him.”
Chimaev vs. Burns is scheduled for UFC 273 on April 9. The event is set to be headlined by Adesanya’s teammate Alexander Volkanovski, who will be defending the UFC featherweight title against Chan Sung Jung. Also on that card is a UFC bantamweight unification bout between Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan.