UFC man of the moment Khamzat Chimaev says he will fight anyone and everyone as he plots the next moves in his rapid rise in the promotion.
Chimaev established himself as the name on every fight fan’s lips in the space of just two months when he exploded onto the UFC scene with three dominant victories across two weight classes.
Such is his ascent that the Russian-born star – who now fights out of the Allstars gym in Stockholm, Sweden – has already been promised a main event slot in Las Vegas in December by UFC boss Dana White.
However, finding an opponent willing to try and stop the ‘Borz’ juggernaut has thus far proved more difficult, as members of the established order in the welterweight and middleweight folds – including the likes of Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and Demian Maia – have declined to face Chimaev, who remains unbeaten in nine professional MMA contests but is without a ranking in the UFC.
Going against the grain, one man willing to give the 26-year-old a crack at one of the ‘big boys’ is British middleweight contender Darren Till – but only after he has attended to business against Sweden’s Jack Hermansson in their headliner planned for December 5.
Chimaev is currently back on Fight Island – where he forged his name in the UFC with two wins in the record space of 10 days in June – this time as part of the team for his friend and Allstars training partner Guram Kutateladze.
Even though he’s not donning the gloves to fight this time around, the ever-eager Chimaev says he would be willing to make the most of his stay in Abu Dhabi by taking on Till.
“After Guram fights, we’re going home if Guram doesn’t get one more fight here – or maybe I’ll fight here,” a smiling Chimaev told RT Sport.
“I said to Darren Till, come before December to Abu Dhabi… I spoke with him on Instagram, he’s a funny guy but I have to smash this guy also.
“He’s a Thai boxer, a stand-up fighter, but if Tyron Woodley took him down and choked him out, what am I going to do with this guy?
“[Till] has a fight now in December, but Jack Hermansson is a good wrestler, a good grappler, I think it’s 80 percent he’s going to win, I don’t Darren is going to win this fight.”
Speaking on his journey from Chechnya to Sweden and then on to the UFC octagon, Chimaev said it had been one of hardships including financial and physical struggles, as well as periods spent sleeping in the gym.
“The [Allstars] manager came to me and said do you want to compete in MMA, and I said yes, but at that time I didn’t have so much money to take an apartment, I had money only for food, then I started to live there [in the gym],” he said.
“I didn’t have money for food, my brothers from Allstars helped me. Guram was also there.”
Life is very different now given Chimaev’s rising star status in the UFC, which has been accompanied by a growing following on social media.
“800,000 [on Instagram] something like that… On Twitter I don’t know,” said Chimaev when asked about the numbers.
Interview requests have also shot up, although the fighter said he is comfortable with his newfound fame and all that comes with it.
“I like everything with this sport, doing interviews, it’s funny. This is my work, you have to do your best in the cage and out of the cage.”
Turning to the apparent reluctance of his UFC peers to face him, Chimaev said ultimately it didn’t matter to him who the UFC ends up putting in front of him – his aim remained the same.
“[The UFC] asked me about Wonderboy, I said yes and then he said no, Demian Maia said no. Neil Magny says he wants to fight with me, I said it doesn’t matter for me, you know I’m going to fight anybody, just give me somebody, 19 December, I’m ready.
“For me it doesn’t matter, I don’t understand these guys [who do the rankings]. Wonderboy he lost three fights, I don’t know, he’s number three or four? I don’t know who gave him this place. If he loses, he has to go down.
“For me it doesn’t matter, if it’s number one or number two, a debutant, if you’re a real fighter you have to fight with everybody….
“If you think you’re the best fighter in the world, you have to think you can beat everybody, it doesn’t matter ranked or unranked.
“For me, it’s just go to fight with somebody. I love to fight.”