Khamzat Chimaev’s campaign to take the welterweight division by storm continues at UFC 273, where he faces former title contender Gilbert Burns in the highest profile bout of his very young UFC career. Chimaev first hit the Octagon in July of 2020, rattling off four one-sided victories—pausing only for a difficult bout with COVID-19—to turn himself into one of the UFC’s most anticipated top prospects.
And while some UFC voices may have reservations about Chimaev’s ability to keep his momentum going at 170 lbs (if for no other reason than his apparently difficult weight cuts), former two division champion Daniel Cormier sounds like he’s picking up everything the Chechen is putting down.
“As the fights get tougher, we’ll see. But what he did to Li Jingliang was ridiculous,” Cormier said in a recent interview with MMA Fighting. “Then I go into the interview [after the fight] and I say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Khamzat Chimaev,’ and he goes, ‘Brother, of course you are [speaking to me] — what was the option? It was going to be me. It was never going to be Li.’ It was tremendous.
“He’s got the swagger, he’s got the fighting ability. I’m a fan. I’m a massive fan of Khamzat.”
“I think he’s the scariest contender we have seen for a while,” Cormier enthused, adding that even if he weren’t so heavily favored over Gilbert Burns, any expectation that he might pull off the win is a huge feather in the 27-year-old’s cap.
If there is one hesitation that DC does have about the Allstars Training Center athlete, it’s not one most fans might expect. The former US Olympic team member voiced his reservations about Chimaev’s growing friendship with Darren Till. Not that Till might be a bad influence on the fighter, but that the regular output of social media content the two are putting out is spoiling Chimaev’s mystique.
“There’s just so many unknowns,” Cormier said, speaking of Chimaev’s ability to compete among the UFC’s elite. “When I was a kid and I’d watch [Mankind in WWE] and it would say he’s from parts unknown, I’m like where is this dude from? Even though I knew he was ‘Cactus Jack.’ I knew underneath it was ‘Cactus Jack.’ It’s like Khamzat. There’s just so many questions, and every time he comes [to fight], he comes in, he dominates, and he’s gone.
“I love the whole buddy-buddy thing with Darren Till but I think it’s a mistake. I think he should continue to be a mystery to people. I think he should have as little time in front of the public and showing who he is, pulling the curtain back. I would pull the curtain back as little as I could if I’m Khamzat, just because the mystery is good for him. He’s very scary.”
Chimaev gets a chance to add to his air of dominance this Saturday, April 9th at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL. The PPV fight card is expected to be headlined by a pair of title bouts, with Alexander Volkanovski defending his featherweight title in the main event against the ‘Korean Zombie’ Chan Sung Jung. Bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling is set to rematch Petr Yan in hopes of settling their controversial first contest at UFC 259 in March of last year. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news and notes as fight night approaches.