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Khamzat Chimaev Proclaims Himself the Ultimate Fighting Gangster

  • Khamzat Chimaev, months after contemplating a COVID-enforced retirement, returns Saturday.
  • The MMA super prospect competes against Li Jingliang in a welterweight match at UFC 267.
  • Should he dominate like he has done all his life he’ll continue his superstar trajectory to the top.

ABU DHABI — Khamzat Chimaev has the aura of a future superstar as the unbeaten MMA fighter nonchalantly fulfills media duties this week while promising a unique brand of cannibalistic violence.

The Russian-born Swedish combatant generated a significant reputation while fighting for Brave CF, one of the leading promotions in the Middle East.

He made opponents wilt due to his punching prowess, showed jiu jitsu pedigree with a D’Arce choke submission win, and finished everybody he faced while competing in Bahrain, India, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.

Chimaev understandably commanded the UFC’s attention.

Conversations that took place at the top of the Las Vegas-based MMA firm touted Chimaev as the best, most talented, and most valuable prospect in the world at the time, Insider understands.

UFC signed him in 2020 and he made his debut for the company on “Fight Island” — a bubble environment in Abu Dhabi, a region that knew the athlete well from his days at Brave CF.

No matter who UFC paired him with, Chimaev dominated.

He destroyed John Phillips while barely breaking a sweat, submitting him with a D’Arce choke — the second time he used that move to perfection in his burgeoning fight career.

So unsatisfied was Chimaev with the level of competition, he stayed on “Fight Island” until the UFC found him another body to maul.

He fought Rhys McKee 10 days after Phillips. This fight seemed even easier for him. He picked his opponent up like a baby, dragged him around the cage, and ground-and-pound him until the ref called a first-round finish.

A star was born

Khamzat Chimaev knockout video

Chimaev finished Gerald Meerschaert with a single shot in 17 seconds.

Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Throughout the first “Fight Island” festival, the UFC was happy to push Chimaev into the limelight.

The UFC gathered media, Insider included, for a press conference on Yas Beach in 115F heat.

Chimaev held court with reporters while standing in the middle of a training Octagon built temporarily on the sand.

Speaking in broken English he made comments he’d repeat again and again — that he’s unbeatable, and levels above anybody else on the UFC roster.

Before “Fight Island” was over, he said he’d smash everybody en route to two-weight champion status, which is a feat few fighters have ever accomplished.

It was hard to doubt him, especially after he knocked out Gerald Meerschaert with a single shot in 17 seconds behind closed doors at the Apex in Las Vegas in September.

But all the momentum that Chimaev built at Brave CF and the UFC was interrupted when he got infected by the coronavirus which affected him so bad he coughed up blood, was taken to hospital, and thought he might die.

Chimaev openly contemplated retirement but decided against hanging up his gloves when he received a video call from the Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov in March 2021.

A post shared by Visit Chechnya (@ya_pomoshnik_kra_95)

“HE REMAINS AND WILL FIGHT TO THE END!” Kadyrov said in a statement.

Two months later, Chimaev was seen laughing and sparring in a gym with Kadyrov — a politician accused by human rights groups of an anti-gay purge in the Chechen Republic. Kadyrov denies the claim.

“Khamzat possesses a wide arsenal of technical skills and excellent functional training,” Kadyrov said. “He is distinguished by bright charisma and absolute fearlessness.”

Khamzat Chimaev and Ramzan Kadyrov

Chimaev spars Ramzan Kadyrov.

Photo by Visit Chechnya / Instagram

Chimaev proclaims himself UFC’s ultimate gangster

In the 1980s, Mike Tyson was renowned as the baddest man on the planet because of his hulking physique and penchant for clobbering adult opponents into boxing’s shadow realm in a brutal way that belied his teenage years.

In the decades since, a new sport — mixed martial arts — has unofficially competed with boxing to determine which combat athlete is deserving of that crown.

Someone like Chimaev, should he pick up where he left off pre-COVID, could be a worthy prince ready to wear such a crown.

At a press conference Insider attended Thursday at the Etihad Arena — the 18,000 capacity venue that hosts UFC 267, a 15-fight event that features Chimaev’s welterweight match against Li Jingliang — Chimaev proclaimed himself a gangster.

He even jokingly threatened one reporter and said he could show him how bad a gangster he truly is. The reporter did not want to go backstage to find out.

Li Jingliang faces off with Chimaev at Thursday's pre-fight press conference.

Li Jingliang faces off with Chimaev at Thursday’s pre-fight press conference.

Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

It is a mentality that will have the UFC boss Dana White smiling, as the powerful MMA executive likes little more than a fighter who competes frequently, to honor claims such as “the baddest.”

Chimaev told reporters, Insider included, that he wants to fight regularly — monthly, even — now that he has overcome the coronavirus. “It’s up to the UFC,” he said.

“I want to fight always in the UFC. And now I’m here, I fight this Saturday and I’m hungry,” Chimaev said. “More hungry than I’ve been.”

To UFC Arabia, he added: “I will be best fighter in this game and when I finish I want to be remembered like best fighter in this world, pound-for-pound No. 1 and take the belt. As many as possible, maybe two, maybe three.”

First, he has to beat Jingliang, the No.11-ranked 170-pounder in UFC’s roster.

Li Jingliang celebrates a recent win inside the UFC Octagon.

Jingliang celebrates a recent win inside the UFC Octagon.

Photo by Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images

Should Chimaev do to Jingliang what he has done to those in Brave CF, to Phillips, McKee, and Meerschaert, then he will continue to climb UFC’s rankings.

For the UFC, who has already tried to match Chimaev with contender Leon Edwards, he may well be rushed to fight a big name in the near-future.

It may well be only a matter of time before he fights for the status he covets — as a title challenger, a champion, and, eventually, the No.1 fighter in the world.

Fight fans can watch UFC 267 on ESPN+ in the US and BT Sport 2 in the UK.

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