In a day and age where nothing can be appreciated at face value, it wasn’t a surprise that after Khamzat Chimaev raced out to four first-round wins in his first four UFC appearances, there were still some skeptics.
Chimaev isn’t interested in hearing from them.
“Who cares about that?” he said. I’m here to stay for a long time. I’m not here to be a normal fighter and get one title.”
That’s a bold statement, and though he hasn’t picked up that one title yet, he can get a step closer to challenging for the welterweight strap held by Kamaru Usman if he can get by Gilbert Burns this Saturday on the UFC 273 main card in Jacksonville, Florida.
And yeah, he’s not planning on having Brazil’s “Durinho” stick around too long, either.
“I respect his skills and everything he does,” Chimaev said. “He’s one of the best guys, but not on my level.”
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So business as usual for the 27-year-old Chechnya native?
“Nothing different. I’m just gonna go and kill this guy.”
That’s pretty bold, too, but it’s par for the course when it comes to “Borz,” who made his UFC debut on July 16, 2020, with a second-round submission of John Phillips. Ten days later, he took a little over three minutes to stop Rhys McKee. And while he had long been that underground cult hero that everyone who had been through Sweden’s Allstars Training Center talked about, winning two UFC fights in less than two weeks put him on everybody’s radar.
“Everything changed after those two fights,” he said. “When I came home, people recognized me, and you have to be ready for that. I was ready for that because I saw (teammate and UFC star) Alex (Gustafsson) and the guys who were famous in Sweden.”
Less than two months after the McKee fight, Chimaev made his Las Vegas debut and took the level of hype to new levels with a 17-second knockout of Gerald Meerschaert. Now the call was for Chimaev to fight one of the top dogs in either the welterweight or middleweight division, but then he was taken down by the only opponent who has come close to beating him: COVID-19.
“It was bad,” he said. “You can’t do your work, you can’t do what you love.”
Even when he began the road back, all it took was ten minutes in the gym to exhaust him, and he wondered if his career was over before it got a chance to thrive. Luckily, he gradually got back to a hundred percent, and when he returned last October, it was more of the same from Chimaev, who submitted Li Jingliang in a little over three minutes.
“When I came back and smashed that guy, everybody seen that,” he said.
Now he’s back where he was expected to be before COVID hit, and the next order of business is beating Gilbert Burns. He pulls that off and any remaining skeptics may be silenced.
“He’s one of the best guys,” said Chimaev. “If I beat him, what are they gonna say? I beat him already in my head.”
And if those naysayers are still around, remember, Chimaev doesn’t care.
“I’m the king here. Just stop me.”
UFC 273: Volkanovski vs The Korean Zombie took place on Saturday, April 9, 2022, live from a sold out VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!