After winning his first three fights in the UFC this year in record time, the promotion has catapulted Khamzat Chimaev to a higher level of competition, and given him his first main event at UFC Vegas 17 against number three ranked welterweight, Leon Edwards. A move that has multiple fighters, including former welterweight title challenger Stephen Thompson questioning the integrity of the rankings system.
The New Khabib?
Speaking to Submission Radio (transcribed by MMA Mania) Thompson explained why he believes the UFC has been so keen to push Chimaev.
“Rankings is becoming a non-existent thing, it’s about the exciting fights,” Thompson said. “I kind of called it. I was like, man, why are they pushing this Khamzat guy so hard. And then I was like, watch Khabib retire. And they kind of did the same thing with Till. When Bisping retired, they needed somebody from that market to keep those fans involved, and Till was it. And I guess the same thing with Khamzat. They knew that Khabib was gonna retire and they needed somebody from that market, and there you go. You’ve got this Khamzat guy who’s been doing work.”
Prior to Chimaev being booked against Edwards, Thompson was originally the one rumoured to be in negotiations for a fight against ‘Rocky.’ Considering that fight fell through and instead went the the newcomer, it could explain ‘Wonderboy’s’ frustrations.
However, what Chimaev has been able to accomplish in just his short run so far in the UFC has been unprecedented. ‘Borz’ first fight with the UFC came in July when he submitted John Phillips at UFC Fight Island 1, just to make promotional history by winning his second fight in ten days by finishing Rhys McKee at UFC Fight Island 3.
Those two fights alone were handled in such a dominating fashion on the ground that Chimaev even began drawing similarities in style to Khabib Nurmagomedov. But once the 26-year-old finished Gerald Meerchaert with just one punch in 17-seconds at UFC Vegas 11, it was clear the UFC had a budding superstar on its hands.
While Thompson may not have got his fight against Edwards, he will still find himself competing at UFC Vegas 17, against Geoff Neal.
What do you make of Stephen Thompson and his comments about Khamzat Chimaev?