While he was offered and accepted the opportunity following an injury to former featherweight champion Max Holloway, it appears Rodriguez wasn’t interested after a new headliner was selected for that card with Islam Makhachev now expected to clash with Thiago Moises in a five-round fight that night.
Chikadze was obviously holding out hope that he’d get the chance to face Rodriguez to build on his 6-0 run in the UFC.
“They called me to replace Max, and I was happy to step in,” Chikadze told MMA Fighting. “I don’t know how this guy is gonna stay ranked No. 3 if he don’t agree on the fight cause he hasn’t fought for a long time and look at me. I had like five, six fights in the same time. I don’t know what’s going to happen.
“It’s not surprising from him, because he’s been doing this for not only me but for other fighters. With Zabit [Magomedsharipov], he turned him down four times and after USADA violation and the UFC cut his contract, cut him from the UFC. I’m really upset on one thing. This guy is not ranked No. 3 [in the UFC rankings], that’s the only thing. I feel like my name should be higher.”
While it seems like Chikadze won’t get to take Rodriguez’s ranking away from him in the cage, he’s hoping some ranked featherweight will eventually serve as his next opponent.
Part of the frustration that Chikadze feels stems from the argument that he can’t get into title contention without facing stiffer competition, and yet he can’t seem to get higher-ranked fighters to accept his challenge.
“Everyone is talking about my opponents, how I beat non-ranked opponents,” Chikadze said. “This and that and Cub Swanson was older age and stuff but how am I going to prove these guys wrong if nobody fights me from the top 10? Who should I fight?
“I’ve been calling out pretty much everybody. Arnold Allen, Edson Barboza, Calvin Kattar, Max, Yair, whoever don’t have a fight, [The Korean Zombie] now, it would be great fights. But nobody really accepted. Now the champion [Alexander Volkanovski] has a fight with Brian Ortega and whoever is available, everybody is not picking up the phone.”
According to Chikadze, he recently spoke to his manager about the issues he’s been having with the top-ranked fighters not responding to him, and it’s an eerily similar problem that a current UFC champion and a retired UFC legend dealt with as well during their respective careers.
“It’s funny, me and [Kamaru] Usman have the same manager, and the other day I was talking to Ali [Abdelaziz] like what’s going on with these top-10 featherweight p*ssies? I was like what’s up with this? Why are they not fighting me? He was mentioning Usman’s name and Khabib [Nurmagomedov], these guys had the same issue a couple of years ago.
“I don’t have an answer how these guys are top-ranked fighters today. Back in the day when a fighter was a real fighter and he was in the ranking, he was going to fight anybody. You would [fight] anybody, quality guys and I’m a quality guy. I’m top 10. I was last year the most busiest guy and I proved to anyone already. I want my main event fight.”
Following a blistering 63-second finish in his last fight, Chikadze would like to stay as busy as possible. For now, it looks like the Rodriguez fight is off the table, and he’s just waiting for the UFC to find him somebody else.
“The good thing is I always accept the fights,” Chikadze said. “I know something’s going to happen. I always train. Usually, I don’t announce my injuries. Let’s say last fight when I fought Cub, I had a torn hamstring, a broken rib and a big issue with my lower back but no one knew about it. This is what I’m going through every single time I fight and I don’t complain all this. I never complain anything about all those types of things.
“These guys get some little injury or some mental issue. I remember when I got in the UFC, the first three fights I was scheduled with the same guy and this guy pulled out three times, all three times. We never fought. Mike Davis, I don’t know if you remember that guy but three times he pulled out this guy. He had mental issues. I don’t understand these types of fighters. I’m a different breed.”
Chikadze said he doesn’t have anything personal against anybody in the featherweight division. But he also wants his opportunity to climb the ranks, and that’s not possible if those fighters aren’t interested in him as an opponent.
Perhaps the toughest part to accept is Chikadze knows just about every potential matchup between he and another top-10 ranked featherweight is going to produce fireworks.
“Starting with ‘Zombie’ to whoever steps in from the top-10, I’m taking anybody,” he said. “How can you not schedule me with Yair or Kattar or Edson Barboza or ‘Zombie’ or Arnold Allen? All of those fighters in my division, they are amazing fighters. They have a very unique styles, very entertaining styles.
“Now if you’re playing ‘Mortal Kombat,’ you’re playing Sub-Zero against Liu Kang, Sub-Zero against Scorpion, definitely it’s going to be every single time I step in with them, it’s going to be a fun fight.”