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Coach doesn’t rule out Khamzat Chimaev clash with rival Paulo Costa next

UFC 279: Chimaev v Holland
Khamzat Chimaev
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

RIO DE JANEIRO — Khamzat Chimaev is in no rush to book his next UFC fight, his longtime jiu-jitsu coach Alan “Finfou” Nascimento said in an interview with MMA Fighting, but it has nothing to do with his current situation in Russia.

Brazilian outlet Combate reported earlier this week that the Chechen sensation was unable to leave the country after having his passport seized upon landing in St. Petersburg due to Vladmir Putin’s military draft for the Ukraine war. According to Nascimento, Chimaev is expected to leave for Sweden next week.

“As soon as they got there, one or two days later, the president of Russia started drafting [people],” Nascimento said. “[Chimaev] wanted to visit his parents and spend 10 days with them, and then come back to Brazil with us. He was supposed to be here with us, that was the plan. But I think things are starting to get back to normal. I believe he will be able to go to Sweden in a week. If he does, he’s going to UFC [280] in Abu Dhabi as a guest fighter.”

Unbeaten in 12 professional bouts, Chimaev is on a roll in the UFC with six wins in 26 months, capped off by a decision over Gilbert Burns and a quick victory over Kevin Holland. Chimaev badly missed weight for his last bout at UFC 279, forcing the change of opponents from Nate Diaz to Holland.

Asked whether or not Chimaev will move up to middleweight next or attempt to make welterweight again, Nascimento said it all depends on the future of both weight classes.

“The 170 division is a bit stuck because there will be a rematch,” said Nascimento, referring to a trilogy bout between champion Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman, which has yet to booked. “Chimaev’s situation at 170 is, he either waits for the fight or [serves as] a backup fighter in case someone gets injured. But, in case he moves up, a fight with a top-5 guy would definitely be interesting.

“But we don’t rule out the possibility of, even though I think it’s very hard for [Israel] Adesanya to beat ‘Poatan’ [Alex Pereira], [Adesanya] would have beaten everyone in the top 7 at least once, to even twice in some cases. So, maybe we would jump the line and have a title fight at 185. It’s really hard to know right now what decisions to make. We must wait for fights to happen so we know the next step.

“We thought about going up, but we have created a legacy at 170 already. If we go up to 185, everything would have been for nothing, except for the experience. But the focus is on becoming champion. After he mentioned [going up], we sat down with the whole team and decided to wait for the [welterweight division] to settle so at least we have a title fight. If he wins, perfect, we go for the next one. If he loses, we’d go up.”

All that being said, a matchup with Brazilian middleweight and heated rival Paulo Costa for the UFC 283 show in Rio de Janeiro on Jan. 21 is not out of the question for now.

“If the UFC thinks that’s doable, he can make it happen,” Nascimento said. “The UFC is a company that wants numbers, wants results, wants to sell, so I believe the UFC will make it happen if they want to. For sure.”

Chimaev planned on flying to Rio de Janeiro for the premiere of the biopic of Nascimento’s mentor and jiu-jitsu legend Fernando “Tererê” Augusto, a multiple-time jiu-jitsu world champion who had his meteoric rise ended by drug abuse and schizophrenia. Nascimento, a childhood friend and protege of “Terere”, flew all the way from Sweden to watch the premiere of “O Faixa-Preta” on Oct. 6.

“We were really anxious to watch the movie and see how everything would be shown,” he said. “Watching the movie felt like going back in time.”

“Tererê” did not attend the premiere Thursday night because of personal issues, but Nascimento said “he will be very emotional and happy” watching the movie.

One of the most iconic scenes shown in the movie replicates the moment Nascimento returned the black belt he bought from “Tererê” years before in a favela. “Tererê” was deep in drug use and started selling personal items to buy drugs. “Tererê” said Nascimento should take the belt instead of allowing someone else to end up with it, and his protege promised to one day return it when his master returned to competition.

“When I promised him to return his belt, in my mind, I thought it would be in his funeral, that I would put it in his coffin,” Nascimento said. “As you saw in the movie, his situation when he sold me his belt, I lost hope at that moment that I would one day see him doing jiu-jitsu again. In my mind, it would be in his funeral, but God put us in the semifinal of the [2013 IBJJF] European Championship. After everything he had been through, he was back to the place he should never had left.”

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