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Morning Report: Stephen Thompson calls Khamzat Chimaev’s UFC push ‘a slap in the face to everybody who’s worked their butts off’

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Stephen Thompson post-fight Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

This upcoming weekend, the UFC will end its 2020 campaign with the final fight card of the year, and the biggest MMA organization in the world is attempting to exit their most tumultuous year on a high note. UFC Vegas 17 features a litany of former champions and title challengers, all headlined by the main event of Stephen Thompson taking on Geoff Neal in a pivotal welterweight matchup.

That wasn’t always the case though. Originally, Thompson vs. Neal was set to to be the co-main event to another high-profile welterweight matchup, Leon Edwards vs. 2020’s Breakout Fighter of the Year, Khamzat Chimaev. That bout was cancelled when Edwards tested positive for COVID-19 and now is being targeted for early next year, and while that’s unfortunate for fans who were excited to see Chimaev take on his first ranked opponent, the new main event headliner thinks it’s a little ridiculous that Chimaev was even in that position in the first place.

“I think he was ranked No. 15, which doesn’t make sense to me,” Thompson told MMA Junkie. “I know he’s had one fight in the welterweight division, and his opponent (Rhys McKee) is 0-2 right now and normally a lightweight, a 155er, so it just doesn’t make sense how this guy can jump past everybody who’s worked their behinds off to get to where they’re at, and now he’s ranked No. 15 fighting the No. 3 guy, I believe. It’s just ridiculous to me.

“I had to fight through murderer’s row to get to where I’m at and so did Leon Edwards. He was on a (eight-fight) winning streak to get to where he’s at. I had to fight a slew of guys, I mean tough opponents. Robert Whittaker, Jake Ellenberger, Rory McDonald, Johny Hendricks to get to where I’m at, and then this guy just jumps past everybody. I think it’s a slap in the face to everybody who’s worked their butts off.”

Chimaev’s ascendancy has been the source of much consternation in 2020. “Borz” made his UFC debut in July to minor fanfare, submitting John Phillips with a D’Arce choke. He then set the record for quickest turnaround in the modern UFC era, stopping Rhys McKee just 10 days later. Following those two wins, UFC President Dana White obviously saw something he liked in the new talent and began promoting him aggressively, and Chimaev rewarded their faith in him with a 17 second KO of Gerald Meerschaert. So with three dominant wins in a matter of months, despite none of them coming against ranked opposition, the UFC made the decision to vault him into contention with the Leon Edwards fight, which puts him on the precipice of a title shot and that leaves a bad taste in the mouth “Wonderboy”.

“Guaranteed he’s probably gonna get a title shot if he beats Leon Edwards, and I kinda called this,” Thompson said. “I was wondering why they were pushing Khamzat so hard, and I was like watch Khabib retire, because they’re from the same neck of the woods, they got to please that market, so it kinda makes sense why they’re pushing him so hard.”

The sixth-ranked Thompson himself was interested in a fight with Edwards earlier this year, given Edwards’ position in the division, however Edwards shot that idea down completely, saying he wanted to fight someone that moved him towards a title shot. Instead, Thompson ultimately agreed to face Geoff Neal and, after failed contract negotiations with the UFC, Edwards ended up accepting a fight with the then-unranked Chimaev. In the end, a win for Edwards may still get him a title shot, but now instead of facing one of the biggest names in the division, he has to fight a still relatively unknown rising star to make his case for a title shot, which “Wonderboy” says just speaks to how wild things are in welterweight division right now.

“For Leon Edwards, I don’t think it does anything,” Thompson said. “I think it’s a lose-lose for him. Even though Khamzat’s got a lot of hype around him, a good win, where does that put him? It doesn’t move him up any rank, maybe a title fight, which I think he deserves anyway. So, yeah, the welterweight division is a little crazy at this point.”


TOP STORIES

Results. Deiveson Figueiredo retained his flyweight title with a majority draw at UFC 256.

Hospital Deiveson Figueiredo reveals trip to hospital night before UFC 256: ‘The fight almost didn’t happen’.

Rematch. Brandon Moreno reports popped shoulder during UFC 256, wants rematch with Deiveson Figueiredo in 2021.

Fate. Dana White commends Tony Ferguson’s toughness in defeat, says Khabib Nurmagomedov fight ‘just wasn’t meant to be’.

Future. Charles Oliveira doubts Khabib Nurmagomedov returns, calls for McGregor vs. Poirier winner for vacant title.


VIDEO STEW

UFC 256 Post Show.

UFC 256 post-fight press conference.

Official UFC 257 promo.

Wonderboy fight camp.

Peep the final weight cut of Khabib’s career.

Chito got no love for Suga Sean.

Fighters react to MMA KOs.


LISTEN UP

On to the Next One. Matchmaking for the UFC following UFC 256.

Severe MMA. Discussing UFC 265, Cage Warriors Trilogy, and 2020.


SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE

Figgy Smalls has an absurd amount of drip.

Statements.

Good effort.

Matchmaking.

The difficult life a champion.

Congrats, Bobby Knuckles.

Max Griffin got a tattoo of the ear.

Absolutely savage from Buffer.


FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Nik Lentz (30-11-2) vs. Mike Grundy (12-2); UFC Fight Night, Jan. 16.

Matt Schnell (14-5) vs. Tyson Nam (20-11-1); UFC Fight Night, Jan. 20.

Khalil Rountree (8-4, 1 NC) vs. Marcin Prachnio (13-5); UFC 257, Jan. 23.

Drakkar Klose (11-2-1) vs. Jai Herbert (10-2); UFC Fight Night, Feb. 20.

Sean Brady (13-0) vs. Jake Matthews (17-4); UFC 259, Mar. 6.

Islam Makhachev (18-1) vs. Drew Dober (23-9); UFC 259, Mar. 6.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Thanks for reading, enjoy the fights, and see y’all tomorrow.


EXIT POLL

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