Neil Magny is all about options.
Fresh off a unanimous decision win over Geoff Neal at UFC Vegas 26, the veteran welterweight is looking to take a little bit of time off to rest and heal his body. But he’s always looking at what comes next.
With August as his targeted timeline to return, Magny barely had time to step out of the cage this past Saturday night before he was bombarded with questions about a possible showdown with Khamzat Chimaev later this year. The undefeated Chechen has been teasing his return to action after nearly retiring following a harrowing ordeal with COVID-19.
Chimaev took the UFC by storm last year with three consecutive wins in rapid-fire fashion, but the one criticism toward him has been the level of competition. Two of his three opponents are no longer on the UFC roster, and he’s only had a single fight at welterweight, yet he was initially expected to clash with Leon Edwards, who is currently in title contention at 170 pounds after going undefeated in his past nine fights.
According to Magny, he’s absolutely open to the fight against Chimaev if that’s what the UFC offers him.
“I’m still not opposed to the Khamzat Chimaev fight,” Magny told MMA Fighting. “The dude’s untested at this point. He’s a young up and comer, he has great credentials on the international level. He definitely has potential to be a great fighter, and I want to test myself against a young up and coming guy.
“I feel like I’m one of the best guys out there right now. I’m in the best shape right now. I’m in a good place in my life right now. It would be a notch in my hat.”
As dominant as Chimaev has been through his first few fights with the UFC, Magny knows he’s still largely an unproven commodity, which is one of the things that intrigues him most about the potential matchup.
“I match up great against him,” Magny said. “He’s a big welterweight, he fights at middleweight as well so he’s not going to be a guy I can walk in and have a huge reach advantage over, but I still have a striking advantage over him. His wrestling is top notch but I feel once the fight hits the ground, it would be in my world so to speak. I’m not worried about going to the ground with anybody.
“I think I match up well against Chimaev wherever this fight takes place.”
That said, Magny can’t help but look at the facts surrounding Chimaev’s last few fight bookings, which were scrapped due to his lingering problems with COVID-19. While it certainly appears he’s on the road to full health again, Magny would rather not focus only on Chimaev, which then eliminates all other options that might become available to him.
“That’s why I wasn’t too eager to commit like, ‘You and I are fighting in August,’ and take all the other fights off the table,” Magny said. “I do wish the guy well, I do wish he comes back here pretty soon. But with the COVID situation, I don’t know if he’ll be ready in August and I’m not willing to put my career on hold for ‘what if?’
“If he’s ready, I’m absolutely willing and able to face him. If not, give me the next top contender and I’m ready to keep moving forward.”
While Chimaev remains one possible opponent for his next fight, Magny would actually prefer the chance to move ahead in the welterweight division considering he’s already ranked inside the top-10.
With numerous fighters already tied up with other opponents, Magny sees one name in particular that really draws his interest if the UFC is asking him who he would prefer to face later this year.
“Vicente Luque, in a perfect world scenario, that would be the fight that I’d take,” Magny said. “He’s ranked top-10 for sure, pretty close to the top five. He’s on a three or four fight win streak. He just finished a former champ. So an ideal, perfect world situation it would be Vicente Luque, but I don’t know if he wants to go back and fight the guy that’s No. 7 or No. 8.
“I think he has the right to choose, but I’m definitely gunning after guys like that. We’re just going to see what happens and be ready come August.”