On the UFC’s second trip to UFC Fight Island, Michael Chiesa couldn’t help it. The welterweight contender and ESPN+ analyst started feeling the urge to move his workday from the desk to the Octagon.
The 33-year-old Washington state native had spent nearly a full year on the sidelines due to various injuries and the restrictions created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Chiesa (17-4) saw the experience that fighters were having on UFC Fight Island and decided that the chance to compete in “a bubble” like the one created in Abu Dhabi was a once in a lifetime shot.
That’s when “Maverick” got the call to headline UFC Fight Island 8 against the surging Neil Magny.
“I was out here for three weeks and I got settled in I was like ‘I want to fight here; I want to be a part of this UFC Fight Island experience because this is once in a lifetime.’ So, when I came out here and I got a feel for UFC Fight Island I could see myself having a fight week here,” Chiesa told UFC.com. “He (Magny) is an awesome guy and there’s not a lot of bad things you can say about him, but I got to go out and beat him. It’s going to be a fun fight and it’s a fight that makes sense. It’s a fight that’s going to be good for us and it’s going to be a fight that’s fun for the fans. May the best man win.”
Thanks to that time away from the cage, Chiesa was able to get healthy and refine some things as he aims to make his run to the top of the stacked welterweight division.
It was admittedly tough for Chiesa to sit back while the division continued to develop without him, but now that he’s ready to rock, he believes that an impressive performance over someone as tough as Magny could launch him to where he wants to be.
“Neil and I have kind of been clamoring at each other for a while to fight. He’s ranked one spot below me and I think the rankings are still relevant, but I think they are kind of taking a back burner. I think if you go out and have an impressive fight, that can really catapult you up the rankings,” Chiesa said. “I’m not as focused on fighting the guys ahead of me, especially when they booked this fight, like everybody was booked. The landscape of the division was like this, and this is the guy that makes the most sense and I’m glad we get to do it.”
A win would give Chiesa the momentum he needs to ascend the ranks at 170 pounds, something that he’s been patient about so far. But after missing the entire 2020 campaign, Chiesa knows that a victory over Magny would put him in perfect position to have the type of 2021 he needs to push for a shot at the title.
When a fighter is away from competition for a lengthy period of time, the question of “ring rust” always seems to pop up. Chiesa is well aware of the concept and actually had a year plus gap between performances back in 2016-2017.
"It was tough having to wait this long." - @MikeMav22 details his time away from the Octagon, what it means to him to be headlining #UFCFightIsland8 and what he thinks about opponent Neil Magny 🔊⬆️— UFC News (@UFCNews) January 18, 2021
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He believes he learned from that experience and now that he’s focused on becoming a better mixed martial artist, rather than on getting his body to make weight at 155 pounds, “ring rust” won’t be a factor.
He’s just going to make the walk at Etihad Arena and be the best Michael Chiesa he can be.
“I’m just focused on the win. I don’t want to set too many expectations for myself with my first fight back in a year, but I’m very confident I’m going to win; there’s no doubt about that. I’m not going to set some expectation for myself and try to pursue that,” Chiesa said. “I don’t want anything that’s going to create any lapse in my focus. I’m just focused on getting my hand raised and I’m envisioning that and whatever it takes to get to that, I’m willing to do it.”
Michael Chiesa | Top Finishes
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Michael Chiesa | Top Finishes
Chiesa is quick to point out he is focused on the challenges that Magny, winner of his last three bouts, brings to the table. Attributes such as Magny’s toughness, gas tank and frame make this fight an exciting one for Cheisa.
“I like the challenges he presents from a skill standpoint and just from where his strengths are, and I’m excited to go out there and test myself,” Chiesa said. “I have five rounds to do it and I have five rounds to get the job done, so I’m really looking forward to this main event.”
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