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Chael Sonnen plays matchmaker for Khamzat Chimaev, not in favor of fights with Kamaru Usman or Gilbert Burns

UFC 267: Jingliang v Chimaev
Khamzat Chimaev
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Chael Sonnen has experience with getting the promotional push from the UFC and is using that past knowledge to figure out what Khamzat Chimaev’s next move should be.

Chimaev — the No. 10-ranked welterweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings — continues to generate tremendous hype and excitement following his first-round destruction of Li Jingliang at UFC 267. “Borz” has won all 10 of his professional fights, including finishing all four of his octagon appearances. With the win, fans and fantasy matchmakers alike are ready to throw the 27-year-old into top 10 and top five matchups, even suggesting that he should be next for current welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.

Sonnen sees value in a future matchup between Usman and Chimaev, but not right now.

“If you’re wrong on Chimaev, and you burn him too soon, what do you do then,” Sonnen asked during a video on his YouTube channel. “Do you throw him back in the spot he is now, which is a potential contender — except now you don’t have the same excitement or enthusiasm because you already put him in for the belt and he finished second? You’ve got to be careful with how you play it. Most guys, you gotta take what you can get when you can get it. If you try to play this build game, you’re gonna be broke and they’re gonna be released. It doesn’t work.

“But Chimaev is one of those exceptions, so what do you do with him? If he’s good enough to get the belt right now, how does it behoove you for him to have the belt? He’s got plenty of needles to move on the way to the top, and the current guy at the top is the No. 1 pound-for-pound in the world. Why am I gonna burn one of them?”

Other options people like for Chimaev include the most recent competitor to challenge Usman for the title earlier this month at UFC 268, Colby Covington. Sonnen believes the matchup does make sense, but understands why Covington wouldn’t pounce on fighting a guy much lower in the rankings, especially since many consider “Chaos” to be the second best 170-pounder in the world.

Reports have circulated over the past week that a fight between Chimaev and former title challenger Gilbert Burns is in the works. Multiple people with knowledge of the promotion’s plans confirmed to MMA Fighting that that’s not the case at the moment, although the idea did generate buzz on social media.

In Sonnen’s eyes, he doesn’t understand the excitement behind it and feels the matchup would be a disservice to Burns.

“This is no, Gilbert Burns,” Sonnen explained. “No [for] Gilbert Burns and Chimaev. If you hear that anywhere, do not support it. Do not get behind that. Do not retweet it. Do not post it. Kill it. You owe that to Burns.”

So who does Sonnen think should be the guy to step inside the octagon with one of the fastest rising stars in UFC history? The guy who has been calling for the opportunity for over a year.

Neil Magny should get this fight,” Sonnen stated. “Magny should get this fight for one reason and that’s because he wants it. Other guys have been cleared to say they’ll take it, but none of them have said they want it — and I do mean none. Neil Magny not only said he wanted it, but he laid out a case as to why he should get it. That’s a very different callout.

“Neil Magny had a good one. ‘Not only was I offered Chimaev, I accepted it. That fight got scrapped but I was the guy a year ago. I’m here right now, he says he wants a ranked guy, put me in,’ it’s very different. Neil should, in my opinion, should get the fight.”