The saga of Khamzat Chimaev’s future has now taken a political turn, with Chechnyan head of state Ramzan Kadyrov assuring his followers the UFC welterweight star is not retiring and will fight on after appearing to announce his retirement on Monday.
In a post on the Chechnyan tourism department’s Instagram account, Kadyrov wrote that after a conversation with Chimaev, the 26-year-old fighter decided he would recover and make a comeback after suffering lingering symptoms from COVID-19.
“And this means that Khamzat does not leave, HE REMAINS AND WILL FIGHT TO THE END!” wrote Kadyrov, a staunch MMA supporter who has been hit by the U.S. with multiple sanctions for suspected human rights violations including targeted violence against gay people in Chechnya.
On Monday, Chimaev posted what appeared to be a farewell message to his fans, thanking them for their support and adding ”I think I’m done. ... It may upset you, but my heart and body tell me everything.”
Chimaev later posted a picture to his Instagram story that appeared to show a spatter of blood in a sink. According to one translation, he wrote in the caption, “this disease is but it is not easily outlived.”
Shortly afterward, UFC President Dana White refuted that message, telling MMA Junkie the fighter was simply “emotional” after a lackluster training session that he underwent despite orders to recover while receiving treatment in Las Vegas. The promotion recently flew Chimaev to the UFC’s home city, and according to White was prescribed the “nasty f*cking steroid” prednisone, an anti-inflammatory used to treat a variety of illnesses.
“He’s not supposed to be training, but you know, this guy’s a savage,” White said. “He wants to fight like every f*cking weekend, and now he can’t even train, so he just got emotional and posted that, but he ain’t quitting.”
According to Kadyrov, he told Chimaev that the announcement “upset” the Chechnyan people and millions of fans in Russia and around the world that were “pinning great hopes on his victory.”
“During our conversation, Chimaev realized how important his career is for every Chechen and promised to make every effort to recover as soon as possible,” Kadyrov wrote. “In the near future he will fly to the republic, where he will complete a rehabilitation course, hold a training camp and start training.”
White said Chimaev is targeting a June return. The fighter was scheduled to face Leon Edwards at UFC Vegas 21 before a resurgence of symptoms sent him to the hospital multiple times, forcing him to withdraw from the event. It was the third time the fight had been cancelled. Edwards is now scheduled to face Belal Muhammad in the March 13 fight card’s headliner.
Chimaev was filmed slumping onto a couch after a training session in a behind the scenes video. His manager, Majdi Shammas, said the fighter started coughing after two rounds of work in preparation for the March 13 fight and later reported he thought he was going to die.
One of the brightest prospects in the octagon and a breakout star, the undefeated Chimaev is a key asset in the UFC’s expansion in the Middle East, which began with a partnership with the Abu Dhabi government for Fight Island, the bubble created to promote UFC events during the pandemic.
Here is Kadyrov’s full statement, which has been verified as authentic by two Russian speakers.
“Friends, you’ve probably already heard the news about Khamzat Chimaev, who announced his departure from the UFC in his account. Not believing my eyes, I called and talked to Chimaev.
“Khamzat said that recovery from illness is slow, and in an attempt to be honest and frank with the fans, he decided not to give them hope.
“I told him that ALL the Chechen people were upset by this news. He reminded Chimaev that all our young people, whom he inspires, are pinning great hopes on his victory, but what can I say - MILLIONS OF FANS IN RUSSIA AND THE WORLD! And if fans need to wait for his return, then we will all look forward to his entry into the octagon with trepidation and patience.
“During our conversation, Chimaev realized how important his career is for every Chechen and promised to make every effort to recover as soon as possible. In the near future he will fly to the republic, where he will complete a rehabilitation course, hold a training camp and start training.
“And this means that Khamzat does not leave, HE REMAINS AND WILL FIGHT TO THE END!
“The heart and body whispered, “It’s all over!” - that is how Khamzat wrote on Instagram. But the Chechen SPIRIT and the will to win shouted to him, ‘Forward!’ Therefore, I know for sure that Khamzat will take the UFC belt and prove that he is the best of the best!
“And I urge the fans to make [an Islamic prayer], and ask the Almighty for health and a speedy recovery for our beloved athlete, a Muslim and a real konakh Khamzat Chimaev! Gave autto boila khan, NOHCHIIN BORZ HAMZAT!”