Giga Chikadze is serious about proving that he’s the best striker in all of mixed martial arts.
The latest example came during his main event showdown with Edson Barboza as the former kickboxer was matched up against arguably one of the most devastating knockout artists in UFC history.
With an impressive resume at both lightweight and featherweight, Barboza is well known for his highlight reel finishes from a jumping knee knockout over Beneil Dariush to his spinning wheel kick to finish Terry Etim and that’s why Chikadze wanted to beat him on the feet.
In fact after putting Barboza on the canvas in the third round with blistering series of punches, Chikadze saw an opening to apply a D’arce choke but then he actually let the submission go in order to deliver on a promise he made before the fight.
“I wanted to finish at some point with a submission but then I realized what I said — I said that I was going to knock him out,” Chikadze revealed when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I had him on a very good D’arce [choke]. The first was the arm triangle and the octagon kind of saved him and although we were very close to the octagon, I was going to hold his leg with my legs so I could finish but the octagon helped him defend. Then I switched to D’arce.
“When I had him in the D’arce, I could finish him but then I realized that I wanted to knock him out. I wanted to finish with strikes. That’s why I let it go. I stand up and finish with extra three piece and a soda.”
That kind of confidence is part of the reason Chikadze has built one of the most impressive win streaks in the featherweight division while steadily climbing closer and closer to title contention.
While it might seem like he was disregarding the danger Barboza presented by releasing the submission to instead gun for the knockout, Chikadze promises that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Absolutely he’s a very, very dangerous guy,” Chikadze said about Barboza. “A lot of people also talk after the fight ‘oh he’s 35 years old, he’s not in the best shape of his life.’ This guy is in very good shape. He has all of the advantages compared to all of these featherweights as well. I feel like I fought the best Edson. He was explosive. He was strong.
“I felt like ‘The Matrix.’ I watched my fight a couple of times and the way I was moving, it was something different. I had the time to prepare for this fight and because I was so well prepared, that’s when I was talking ‘hey guys you have seen just a little bit of the Giga’ and now I’m getting into that mode and that zone and people can really see what I’m capable of.”
As much as Chikadze was happy to show off his grappling skills in the third round, he might have been even more excited to prove that his striking arsenal goes far beyond his kicking game.
For all the talk about his infamous “Giga kick” — a liver-busting body shot that he nicknamed long ago — Chikadze actually got to showcase his hands in the fight against Barboza.
Part of that was just displaying his overall striking arsenal but Chikadze explains that he had to switch up his method of attack out of necessity as well.
“I have all the way different tools from A to Z,” Chikadze said. “I have hands, elbows, knees. People don’t know I had a lot of injuries in this fight. I had a biceps tear. I had meniscus and LCL (lateral cruciate ligament) tear. I had the three broken bones in one of the fists. That camp was very challenging as I mentioned.
“But first when I injured the knee, I thought I’m going to finish this fight with my hands. When I broke one of the bones [in my hand], I thought OK I’m going to finish this fight with an elbow. Then I tear a biceps on a different [arm] and I thought it’s something else. I always have some weapons and I know that I can finish everybody with different types of weapons. People have now seen that my arsenal in the game compared to all of those guys together.”
Chikadze has made it clear that his end goal after building a seven-fight win streak in the UFC and a nine-fight win streak overall is claiming the featherweight title.
Until then, the 33-year-old veteran is happy to tout himself as the most elite striker on the entire UFC roster regardless of weight class.
“I believe I’m the best striker inside the whole martial arts world right now,” Chikadze said. “What I’ve done in all different sports. I came from the karate background and became the multi-time national champion, European champion, world champion twice. Then I moved from this sport. I moved from this sport into kickboxing. I became a two-time world champion, two-time European champion and I’m talking about highest level of the sport. I was fighting in GLORY, I was beating people right there, everybody was running from me in the organization of GLORY kickboxing.
“Now I’m in the UFC and everybody is not accepting the fight against me. Everyone wants to say [something] somehow and don’t fight me, ignore me. Who’s a better striker right now in the whole game? Israel Adesanya is a very good style fighter in striking. There are a couple of more but whatever I’ve done on resume on numbers, there is nobody like me.”