Michael Chiesa returned home as one of three main event winners during the UFC’s recent trip to Abu Dhabi and has his eye on a potential matchup with one of the more polarizing figures in the welterweight division.
Chiesa earned his fourth straight win with a dominant unanimous decision over Neil Magny in the headliner of UFC Fight Island 8 this past Wednesday. It was Chiesa’s first fight since his January 2020 win over Rafael dos Anjos, and his return to action following knee surgery over the summer.
“It just feels good to be in the win column,” Chiesa told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “It feels good to log four fights in a row and it was an honor to be part of the whole [fight] week experience.
“Even if I had a knockout performance or a fight like Max Holloway’s, it’s not gonna overshadow the main event we just had at UFC 257. I’m a realist. It’s all good, but I’m very proud of myself. This is like the first fight in my whole career where I came back and felt a really strong sense of pride. Just pushing through the five rounds against a game opponent, I’m proud of myself this time around. There’s a lot to work on but it was a good experience all in all.”
It was a grappling heavy approach from Chiesa, a strategy that Magny didn’t have much of an answer for. “The Haitian Sensation” brings a high pace, high volume style to his fights, which was ultimately thwarted by Chiesa. In fact, “Maverick” held Magny to just 12 significant strikes over 25 minutes, according to UFC Stats—which was 50 less than he had against Robbie Lawler at UFC Vegas 8 in August, and 52 less than he had against Anthony Rocco Martin at June’s UFC 250 event in three round decision wins.
“That is pretty crazy,” Chiesa explained. “The thing is, going into this fight, with it being a five round fight, a short notice [bump] to the main event, we didn’t really plan on wrestling that soon. We were gonna feel him out on the feet a little bit and as the fight goes on and progresses I’ll push for more takedowns.
“If there’s one thing I’m good at it’s creating collisions. On the broadcast they were saying, ‘I don’t get why he’s clinching up with him.’ I force you to clinch with me. You can’t get away from it. I have a niche to be able to form these collisions and get to these positions that I like, but getting that first takedown I kind of went back in that mode where I’m pushing for takedowns.
“It is crazy that I held him to only 12 significant strikes and I got to sprinkle in some of my own striking as well. It felt good, man. That main event, getting that weight off of my shoulders, accomplishing one of those small goals along the way was huge for me. I always want to finish a guy, but that sense of pride comes from going all five rounds and dominate from bell to bell, post to post.”
Following the win, Chiesa spoke with Daniel Cormier in the octagon and delivered a short and sweet callout of a former welterweight champion.
“The election is over. Colby Covington, your schtick is done. I want you next, boy.”
It wasn’t the first time Chiesa called for a fight with Covington. While Michael Chandler may have stolen the show when it came to cutting proverbial promos following his knockout win over Dan Hooker in the co-main event of UFC 257, Chandler admitted there was some premeditation.
For Chiesa, he didn’t want to overlook Magny and once his hand was raised, the switch was flipped. Covington is potentially tied to a 2021 matchup with Jorge Masvidal, although nothing has been officially announced. Should that fight not come to fruition, Chiesa’s phone line will be open.
“I don’t know, I think it just jumped in my head,” Chiesa stated. “My manager had said something to me like, ‘Who are you gonna call out after the fight? I think you should call for Colby with the election being done.’ This was at the very beginning when I got to Fight Island and I was like, ‘No, man. I’m not even thinking about that.’ I put zero thought into it because I wanted to be focused on Neil because he’s a guy that you can’t give any space. If I have one mental lapse with him that could snowball into something really big. So I maintained my focus on him.
“Maybe it was ‘DC,’ because last time I had the mic with him I did it. I don’t know, it just felt right. And I know that’s a tough fight for me. I see what people say, and I know what the reality is. There’s a good chance that guy could beat me, but how am I going to try and become a world champion if I’m not fighting the best guys? Every underdog has to be an underdog. I’m not gonna be a favorite in all my fights. I wasn’t even a favorite in this fight. Everyone’s supposed to beat me. I feel like every time I fight I’m an underdog. Whatever, I’d rather fight the best guys and lay it on the line to get to my goals. I aimed big for that one. I thought it was pretty good; short, sweet, very concise.
“So we’ll see what happens. If he gets the Masvidal fight, that’s fine and dandy. Like I said, I’m not fighting until July, big fights happening in this division and we’ll see how they shake out.”
The response to the callout of Covington this time around has been mostly positive. Fans and media alike feel that, not only has Chiesa earned that opportunity, but it would be an intriguing matchup.
On top of the ins and outs of the matchup itself, there’s some local and coincidental history attached to it.
“I’m very happy about that,” Chiesa said. “It’s not that everyone is saying positive things like I’m gonna win, they just like that match. It’s a fight that makes sense at this point and if the Masvidal fight doesn’t get done, who else is there for him to fight? Usman and Burns are booked, everyone else is booked, then there’s me. Maybe they do him and Wonderboy, who knows? All I know is that it felt right.
“And there’s a little storyline in a sense that he wrestled at Oregon State and one of his coaches was Kevin Roberts. When I wrestled in high school—I never went to college for wrestling, I wasn’t even that good in high school—my head coach was Dusty Roberts, Kevin’s brother. So there’s kind of this Northwest connection in a sense that would get the wrestling community between Washington and Oregon very invested, and I’m all about the wrestling community. I think it would make some waves.
“Let’s find out who the toughest welterweight in the Pacific Northwest is.”
Should Chiesa not land the golden goose in Covington following the callout, he knows he has other options. A lot of people suggested that a fight between Chiesa and Demian Maia would be interesting. While Chiesa has a ton of respect for Maia, he doesn’t want to be involved in anyone’s “swan song,” since the multi-time title challenger is expected to retire following his next fight.
There is another option that has piqued the interest of Chiesa, and that is an opportunity to face the “NMF” champion, Stephen Thompson.
“He’s such a good guy, and he’s a hell of a fighter,” Chiesa said of Thompson. “That would be a fun fight for sure. If the Colby fight falls through then may the nicest mother f’er win.”