Khamzat Chimaev has already shown he can win fights at welterweight and middleweight. Could light heavyweight be next?
He seems to think so, and as he aims to make a return to competition later this year, Chimaev isn’t putting a ceiling on what division he could potentially return in.
Last year, Chimaev made his UFC debut at 185 pounds as a short-notice replacement for Dusko Todorovic at a UFC on ESPN event on Fight Island. He dominated John Phillips with his wrestling and secured a submission in the second round, then signed on for another fight 10 days later at 170 pounds. In his second octagon appearance, Chimaev again dominated, finishing Rhys McKee with strikes in a little over three minutes. It was the shortest time between wins in UFC history.
The hype surrounding Chimaev came to a fever pitch when he knocked out veteran middleweight Gerald Meerschaert in just 17 seconds this past September. However, his 2021 campaign was cut short when he contracted the coronavirus, which led to multiple cancellations of a high-profile bout with top welterweight contender Leon Edwards.
Chimaev told ESPN he wants to return in August and is open to doing so in either weight class. He even added light heavyweight to the mix, boasting that he could defeat champion Jan Blachowicz.
“To me it doesn’t matter,” Chimaev said. “Two weight classes waiting for me,  or , I can go fight [205 pounds]. I did sparring with the guys who are, like top-10 at [205 pounds]. I don’t want to say the names for these guys, but the guys know when they did spar with me what’s happening there.
“I can beat Blachowicz too. Israel [Adesanya] too, he lose with, like, wrestling against Blachowicz. Blachowicz is not a wrestler. I don’t know people, how they think about it. Of course, I didn’t fight for a long time, I don’t have so many fights, but I know who I am. I just have to show it. Now I’m back. Give me somebody, doesn’t matter. For me, it doesn’t matter. I’ll fight with everybody. When I’m healthy, I’ll fight anybody, everybody. It doesn’t matter, Brock Lesnar.”
Asked what division he would prefer to get a title shot in if it were up to him, Chimaev maintained his laissez-faire attitude to weight classes. Chimaev trains in Sweden with the likes of three-time UFC title challenger Alexander Gustafsson and Ilir Latifi, so he doesn’t foresee any challenges regardless of whether his next fight is at 170 or 185 pounds.
“I did many fights outside,” Chimaev said. “Somedays like, 10 fights, it’s outside, street fights. I can fight in one day, three or four fights if I’m not injured. In gym, we spar with a lot of guys, we change all the time, and my sparring partners they weigh more than me. Alex, like 100 kilos, more, 110. Ilir. I spar with these guys. If I spar with these monsters, I’m going to kill everybody in my weight class.”
If it were up to Chimaev, it sounds like he’d prefer to go back to the days of UFC 1 when one-night tournaments were the norm and weight classes were non-existent. Realistically speaking, his team would like him to come back at welterweight.
In theory though, Chimaev doesn’t think there should be any restrictions when it comes to the business of fighting.
“My manager, I told him, my coach, my team, they told me [170 pounds] would be good for you, I’d be back,” Chimaev said. “If they say like this, I say okay, it doesn’t matter. If they want, I’ll go to heavyweight also.
“Really, I don’t like to show I’m a tough guy, blah blah blah, but for me it doesn’t matter. Fight is fight. If you fight with somebody 200 kilos outside, ‘Oh, let’s fight,’ what are you going to say? He’s fighting with you. You say, ‘No, you’re not my weight class?’ You have to fight.”