Khamzat Chimaev might be one of the best fighters in the world, but his future remains cloudy as far as weight classes are concerned.
After suffering through a difficult weight cut for his UFC 279 main event against Nate Diaz, Chimaev was a whopping 7.5 pounds over the welterweight non-title limit, leading to the fight being scrapped. Afterward, UFC President Dana White hinted Chimaev’s future would probably be better served at middleweight, where he’s previously fought in the past.
For years, Anthony Smith brutalized his body cutting to 185 pounds before conceding he wasn’t a middleweight. Because he’s endured the same struggles, Smith believes Chimaev would be better served to abandon welterweight and put his full focus on middleweight, which could potentially make him an even more dangerous fighter.
“Honestly, I think he should go to middleweight,” Smith said of Chimaev on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “Because he’s only getting older. He’s still a pretty young guy. He’s only going to continue to get bigger, and by taking that off of his plate, he could grow technically and athletically so much faster without having to suck his body [down].
“What happens is you start to train, you get in these camps and you’re training all the time and your body wants to grow. It wants to be healthy. It takes more to fuel it. Your body wants to adapt to what it’s doing. If you’re also sucking yourself down and stopping that process, you’re just hurting yourself.”
While Chimaev has successfully made the welterweight limit previously — including his war with Gilbert Burns in May — continued cuts could eventually take a toll on him.
To add to that, Chimaev isn’t undersized at all compared to other top-ranked middleweights. In fact, Chimaev actually towers over former champion Robert Whittaker by three inches in height and two inches more in reach.
“Did you see the wrestling match between Chimaev and Jack Hermansson?” Smith remarked. “Did you see the size of that goddamn guy? Jack Hermansson is not a small middleweight and [Chimaev] was significantly larger. I would suspect that his entire training camp is focused on getting his weight down. That’s unfortunate.”
Beyond the weight-cutting aspect regarding a move up to 185 pounds, Smith also sees a lot of opportunity for Chimaev, with the potential to make more money in bigger, marquee matchups.
“I think there’s bigger fights at 185 for him,” Smith said. “I think his name value means more at 185 right now. There’s crazy superstars at 170 — 185 could use a couple. I think there’s some great matchups up there for him. Just broadly, if I was Mr. Chimaev, I would probably stay at middleweight.”
Right now, Israel Adesanya rules over the UFC middleweight division with an iron fist as a five-time defending champion. At UFC 281, Adesanya will put his belt up for grabs against former GLORY champion Alex Pereira in a matchup between two of the best strikers to ever set foot in the octagon.
Thanks to Chimaev’s wrestling pedigree with his background in Russia, Smith could imagine a scenario where he’s immediately one of the toughest fights possible for Adesanya or Pereira, which makes a possible move up to 185 pounds even more intriguing.
“It’s not crazy [to think Chimaev beats Adesanya],” Smith said. “Now would he? I don’t know, you’ve got to dig a little deeper. But could he? For sure. He definitely could beat Alex.”