After reigning UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman flirted with a potential fight against Chiesa earlier this year, Luque ended up drawing Chiesa as an opponent as both athletes look to build on recent win streaks.
While Luque isn’t looking beyond his fight on Saturday night, he knows knocking off Chiesa will serve notice to the rest of the division that he’s charging towards the belt and he’s also one of the last welterweights near the top of the rankings who Usman hasn’t already vanquished.
“It was a fight that made a lot of sense to me, in the sense that we’re both climbing up the rankings,” Luque told MMA Fighting about the fight against Chiesa. “We’re both looking to become champions. So it’s that time. One of us is going to go through and keep climbing the rankings and the other one is going to have to unfortunately get a little bit better and wait for their turn.
“I think it’s a fight that’s going to set up a lot of things. Set up who’s going to go into that top three eventually. I believe one of us, whoever gets a dominant win can enter the top three and then we’re talking about possibly a title fight or maybe one more fight and then a title fight. I’m excited for this. I do believe this is a really big fight for both of us.”
The next title fight in the division is expected to be a rematch between Usman and former interim champion Colby Covington at UFC 268 in November. Usman broke Covington’s jaw while earning a fifth-round TKO finish in their previous meeting and he’s since earned three more wins in a pair of fights with Jorge Masvidal and a clash with former teammate Gilbert Burns.
Meanwhile, Covington gets his second crack at the undisputed title following a win over ex-UFC champ Tyron Woodley in his only fight since falling to Usman.
Considering the bad blood between them and the back-and-forth war in the first fight, Usman vs. Covington 2 has been a rematch UFC President Dana White has wanted for quite some time.
That said, Luque doesn’t believe Covington has done enough to truly earn another shot at the title, especially with another top ranked contender like Leon Edwards available and ready to face Usman next.
“I think Colby shouldn’t get that title shot right now because he needs more fights,” Luque explained. “I think he should have at least one more fight before that just to make sure that he is getting better, he is improving after he lost to Kamaru. I don’t know. I think it is a fight that on the other hand many people think that the first fight was kind of close, Colby was beating Kamaru and they want to see that rematch and it’s a fight that might sell a little more than the Leon Edwards fight.
“But I don’t know. I would like to see Leon fight for that title. I think that he deserves it. [Ten-fight] win streak right now, I mean not many people in the division can do something like that. I think that would make more sense looking as a sport-wise, that would make more sense but Colby is an entertaining guy in a trashy way. I don’t think he talks a lot of things that make sense in my opinion but he’s kind of entertaining. People want to watch him even if it’s to see him get beat and I think that’s what the UFC is going with. They think that is the fight that sells the most.”
The next title fight isn’t as concerning to Luque right now because he knows he can’t even get into that conversation if he doesn’t get past Chiesa at UFC 265.
The former lightweight-turned-No. 7-ranked welterweight—according to the MMA Fighting Global Rankings—has won his past four fights in a row including a lopsided victory over Neil Magny in his last outing.
Since moving up to 170 pounds, Chiesa has relied heavily on his wrestling and grappling, which Luque fully expects to remain his game plan when they meet on Saturday night.
While Chiesa has been dominant with that part of his game lately, Luque promises to deliver a different result if this fight hits the floor.
“I’ve been grappling since I’m 16 years old so it’s not something that I’m afraid of,” Luque said. “It’s something that I actually enjoy. I have fun grappling. I don’t choose to go to the grappling cause I love striking, I’m always going to try to knock people out. But whenever we get to the ground game, I’m comfortable there. I like that also. I have a lot of tools on the ground.
“If the fight eventually ends up there and I think that’s what Chiesa is going to try to do and he takes people [down] really well, eventually yeah, I believe he can take me down but once we go there, I’ve got a lot of things I can do against him and put him in danger as well.”
Whether the fight stays standing or it’s 15 minutes of grappling, Luque knows he’s going to make Chiesa earn everything and there’s no way this won’t be a showstealer at the end of the night.
With four post-fight bonuses in his past five fights, Luque prides himself on giving the fans their money’s worth and he’s more than ready to add Chiesa to his growing highlight reel.
“This is what I fight for,” Luque said. “For me it’s recognizing my style and I really appreciate that. No matter what, I know I gotta get the win, I know I want to be champion and I’m going to work my ass off until I become a champion but more than that, I want to be entertaining. I want fans to love my fight. I want every single time my fights are announced, people are not going to miss that fight.
“I know I’m building that. I’m building that style. I’m building that characteristic of being a great fighter and a fighter that always puts on exciting fights.”