Khamzat Chimaev has been backed to fight for a world title at welterweight before Kamaru Usman is granted his rematch with Leon Edwards.
Usman was a dominant champion who had never lost in the UFC when he faced Edwards back in August, but was dethroned by a fifth round head kick that left him knocked out cold. Having already beaten the champion once earlier in his career and having such a legendary reign, the common belief is that Usman will be a rematch immediately by the promotion.
However, UFC legend Chael Sonnen believes they will wait to give Usman another shot as he recovers from injuries and the brutality of the knockout, in the meantime having Edwards fight Chimaev for the gold. This is despite the Swede missing weight by a comical 7.5lb for his fight with Nate Diaz, which already had a one pound weight allowance given that it was not for a world title.
“This is out of left field, but I don’t believe that Kamaru Usman is going to be fighting Leon Edwards next,” Sonnen told MiddleEasy. “I believe that Kamaru’s next fight will be for a belt, I think they’re going to keep Kamaru on ice and I think that Chimaev vs Leon is a real possibility with the winner drawing Kamaru.
“Now that’s out there, that’s not even a rumour, but I’m just sharing that with you. I think that if you have those three and you’re going to match them up I believe that the order does matter and what I just presented is a more viable order. Dana [White, UFC president] just left room when he said [that Chimaev making 170lb was a] challenge. He didn’t say ‘no’.”
Promotional boss White has indicated he would prefer Chimaev to move up to middleweight, where he started against John Phillips in 2020 before moving down the following week to fight Rhys McKee. He has since jumped between the divisions, but most famously has wins over Gilbert Burns and Li Jingliang at 170lb.
What weight do you think Khamzat Chimaev should be fighting at going forward? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
However Sonnen’s theory does hold some weight, particularly if the promotion are planning on having Leon Edwards wait until the late spring or early summerfor his next fight so that he can defend at Wembley Stadium. It’s possible that a Chimaev fight could be snuck in towards the end of the year or in January, should Edwards decide not to wait.
Ultimately, it’s more likely that the promotion will give Usman his rematch, and force Chimaev to either move up or make the weight properly before giving him a title opportunity. The former champion had defended his title five times after winning the title just three years prior, and will be viewed as deserving of another opportunity.
The Swede is undefeated in his 12 fights, and likely would only need one more victory at middleweight in order to be given a shot at the winner of Israel Adesanya’s next defence against Alex Pereira. However, he has previously said that he took the Diaz fight on short notice despite being guaranteed a shot at the winner of Usman vs Edwards.