Khamzat Chimaev is unsure if Kamaru Usman returns to form after his loss to Leon Edwards.
The ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ was dethroned by ‘Rocky,’ who became the first fighter to finish Usman by KO with a head kick in the fifth round of their fight at UFC 278 this past August. The former UFC welterweight champion compared being knocked out to taking a ’20-minute nap,’ which has some, including Chimaev, wondering if he can recover by the time he returns to the Octagon.
“It was a crazy fight, good fight,” said Chimaev to Brett Okamoto of ESPN. “I learned a lot of things about that fight. It was funny to watch. [Usman] was too much high up. He was like, ‘I’m gonna fight with Canelo [Álvarez],’ and all these things and he got shot. He wasn’t focused and he said, ‘I’m always focused,’ and a lot of things. ‘I want to make money.’ ... Leon comes and shot his head, dropped the guy.
“I don’t think he’ll be the same guy again,” continued Chimaev. “In the mind. We’ve seen a lot of champions thinking, ‘Nobody can beat me,’ because he defend so many times, ‘Now I’m unbeatable,’ that kind of thing, and bam, somebody knock you out. Now you know you’re human, as well.”
Chimaev was considered one of the greatest threats to Usman and his reign, as ‘Borz’ rose to contention with five consecutive wins. Had Usman defeated Edwards, the next contender in line for the champion would have been Chimaev, who hoped to earn a championship opportunity with a win against Nate Diaz at UFC 279.
Now that the landscape of the division has changed, Chimaev may have to wait for his shot at gold as all signs are pointing to the trilogy between Usman and Edwards happening next. The undefeated upstart is fine with that, but still hopes to fight Usman one day.
“If it will happen, it will be a big fight because everyone wants to see that fight,” said Chimaev. “He’s almost the same kind of fighter like me, good wrestling and good boxing, but his grappling is terrible. Leon Edwards took him down, took his back. If I take his back, I squeeze off his head. Everyone wants to see that fight.”