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Israel Adesanya’s head coach: Khamzat Chimaev ‘rising star, but he’s done literally nothing at middleweight’

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

Israel Adesanya’s head coach Eugene Bareman believes it’s a no-brainer to run back the memorable UFC 281 main event between Adesanya and the new middleweight champion Alex Pereira next, not Pereira vs. Khamzat Chimaev.

Adesanya was minutes away from defeating his longtime combat sports rival in November before Pereira delivered a come-from-behind finish in the fifth round to end Adesanya’s long reign. With still many questions unanswered — both in the Pereira-Adesanaya story, and Chimaev’s future at 185 pounds should the undefeated star go that route — Bareman is confident the rematch will be the bigger fight.

“I haven’t seen the numbers on the last fight, but I’m sure they’re very, very good,” Bareman said to Submission Radio about the UFC 281 main event. “I think in the middleweight division, I still think that’s the biggest fight.

“Khamzat’s a rising star, but he’s done literally nothing at middleweight. So, he hasn’t established himself. You’re talking about two guys at the top of the food chain in terms of their status in combat sports. Khamzat’s a rising star. Like, he’s a massive rising star. But he’s not in the position of these two guys. This is the biggest fight. Khamzat still has to beat people at middleweight and work his way up to even fighting one of these guys. So, unless the politics take over and the business of the sport take over – and that’s essentially how we arrived at this fight that we’re talking about, right? So, it’s still the biggest fight to make.”

Adesanya successfully defended the UFC middleweight title five times before losing it to Pereira — who improved to 3-0 in the rivalry, including two victories in the kickboxing world.

Pereira offered a bet to Chimaev, as well as former UFC heavyweight Brendan Schaub for a potential fight at UFC 283, but in a light heavyweight contest where each individual will put up at least $50,000 for charity based on the result, and Pereira’s ability to not be taken down quickly.

With the UFC 283 lineup pretty much locked with the addition of a Glover Teixeira vs. Jamahal Hill vacant light heavyweight title fight, Bareman believes all signs should point towards the Pereira vs. Adesanya championship rematch — despite what Pereira would want more.

“At the end of the day, it’s not Alex’s choice,” Bareman explained. “It will be Alex’s choice when he makes ‘x’ amount of title defenses and does well for the company and all that, then it becomes Alex’s choice. But at the moment we’ve got a champion who’s done so much for this company, who’s defended his title so many times. If he wants a rematch, I believe that that’s what he should get.

“We’re quietly confident. You gotta understand, we were winning that fight relatively comfortably. We felt we were taking the rounds. But not comfortable enough – when you’re fighting somebody like that, who’s gameplan appears to be, it’s not a guy who builds his gameplan around accumulation of damage. He’s a guy that builds his gameplan around mentally wearing down and trying to land one big shot. And he’s comfortable giving rounds and then not panicking, because he gives away rounds and it’s part of a bigger picture for him. Setting up what he ultimately is looking for. And with a few adjustments we can make some changes there and build on a lot of positive things that happened in that fight for us.”

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