After making a name for himself on Fight Island, Khamzat Chimaev proved he was the real deal in his first fight in Las Vegas – and UFC President Dana White could be his biggest fan.
At UFC Vegas 11 this past Saturday, Chimaev extended the incredible start to his octagon career, winning his third fight in 66 days in spectacular fashion. The Swedish-Russian fighter needed just 17 seconds to score a one-punch KO against middleweight veteran Gerald Meerschaert at UFC Vegas 11 on Saturday, which sent his already speeding hype train into overdrive.
At the post-event presser, White effusively praised the undefeated prospect.
“The guy is special,” White said. “I’ve been in this game my whole life, I’ve never seen anything like him. He’s special, he’s different. He wants to fight again, so I’ve never been in a position where I’m like, ‘Who’s next? How do we get him a fight? How do we get him over here? How do we do this? How do we do that?’ It’s fun and I like it.
“I think when you’re a fight fan, a guy like this is the type of guy that you love to watch and follow and hate and whatever it might be. This guy is one of the most special fighters I’ve ever seen, if not the most special guy that I’ve ever come across. And he kept telling me leading up to this fight, ‘You think I’m a wrestler. Wait until you see my hands.’ Holy s*it, he wasn’t lying.”
Despite Chimaev (9-0) answering a lot of questions as to how legitimate of a prospect he is, his quick finish of Meerschaert actually left White with a lot of questions. How soon can he fight again? Is it too early to place him against a ranked opponent? And what weight class is he even competing at?
In July, Chimaev stole the show on Fight Island with two wins in 10 days. First, he submitted John Phillips in a middleweight bout and then followed that with a first-round TKO of Rhys McKee at welterweight. With his third UFC win, White was at a loss to describe his potential.
“What’s crazy is when you talk about his win tonight and what he did and how impressive he was, he knocked out a guy who’s 185 pounds, a real guy, with one punch,” White said. “[Chimaev’s] a 170-pounder. I’m telling you the guy is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Never seen anything like this in my life. Special.”
It’s not just the method by which Chimaev is winning, it’s the absurd schedule that the 26-year-old is trying to lay out for himself. Heading into this week, the plan was for Chimaev to fight Meerschaert and then compete again in November against two-time UFC title contender Demian Maia in Las Vegas.
Now, White is wondering if Chimaev will sneak in another fight before then, possibly during the UFC’s upcoming return to Fight Island. It’s a dilemma White is happy to have.
“All the fights that I’ve had, you’ve had guys that will be like, ‘Yeah, I want to turn around fast. Let me see how I feel tomorrow. Let me talk to my team. Let me do this, let me do that,’ White said. “This guy’s like, ‘I want to fight again here on Fight Island.’ I’m like, ‘Really? So you want to fight again while we’re here?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah.’
“So I turned him around. I called everybody and said I’m gonna do it. We’re gonna turn this kid around. We turned him around and he fights again and he does it again. It’s like, ‘Now I want to come to Vegas and I want to fight in Vegas.’ I’ve never experienced that with anybody ever. Not even close, not even remotely close. Listen, it’s one thing to say I want to turn around, but not like this.”
White added “the chances are good” the promotion again brings Chimaev to Fight Island, if only because the fighter is chomping at the bit to compete. According to White, Chimaev has barely had time to properly train since joining the UFC, and at one point, White saw him working out in a parking lot.
When the possibility was raised of Chimaev being thrown to the wolves at the top of the rankings, White pumped the brakes on that talk. But he couldn’t help but speculate on the young fighter’s potential greatness.
“Listen, everybody thought the hype train was over tonight,” White said. “We’re gonna throw him in with a top-five guy? Very, very few people get into the UFC. Very few people break into the top-15. Almost nobody breaks into the top-five and literally very, very few people become world champions. To take a guy that fast and just throw him into the top-five, maybe he could do it. But you definitely don’t do that.”
“I think this guy has the potential to do anything,” he added. “We’ll see how this all plays out over the next year. Look at what he’s accomplished in f*cking 66 days. Imagine what he’ll accomplish in nine months.”