Khamzat Chimaev’s win over Kamaru Usman at UFC 294 could potentially have set him up for a title fight against current middleweight champion Sean Strickland next, and after having sparred with him in the gym before, ‘Borz’ is very confident he would seize the title from him.
“I’ve taken him down. I’ve held him down. I’ve choked him. I’ve punched him. I’ve done all those things, so I don’t see something special about him,” Chimaev had said during a UFC 294 media day.
“He’s a fighter’s fighter. He’s a good fighter. If you look at him, he’s like an American cowboy like from the movies. That’s the kind of guy he is, but we’ve done our work in the gym together,” continued Chmaev. “If they offer him to me, if I can fight him for the belt, that’s what I’ll do, make the money, get the belt. I have nothing against him. I think that if you compare us on a skill level-wise, I’m levels above him. I’m on a whole different stratosphere than him, so he’s not a threat to me. He’s a good guy. He’s a good fighter, and if I can I’m ready to fight anybody. I’m ready to fight anyone, so if there’s a belt there I’ll fight him no problem, even Strickland.”
However, Strickland’s coach Erik Nicksick was also in the gym when the two stars were training together, and he says it was far more competitive than Chimaev would have you believe.
“I don’t know what they saw in the gym, but that’s not the case by any means,” Nicksick told Submission Radio. “I won’t speak about our training sessions, and what happens inside our gym stays within our gym, but there was no one side or the other that was just getting blown out of the water. That’s not… it’s quite the opposite, if you ask me. But, it was very competitive. And Khamzat trains hard, man. He goes hard, he trains hard, and I think he made everybody in the room better. But by no means did I think that there was like, ‘oh, we’re at a disadvantage,’ by any means at all.”
At this stage a title fight between Strickland and Chimaev hasn’t been confirmed, but one potential obstacle was cleared recently when Chimaev’s manager revealed that he only suffered a torn ligament in his hand against Usman rather than breaking it, which should lead to a quicker recovery.