For the first time in his career, Khamzat Chimaev looked vulnerable in a fight after a three-round war against Gilbert Burns at UFC 273.
While the undefeated welterweight eventually walked away with a win, Chimaev had to battle through some dangerous moments, and he blamed himself for getting put in those positions by failing to heed the advice of his coaches.
“I was too excited to knock him out,” Chimaev explained at the UFC 273 post-fight press conference. “I was saying to everybody all week I was going to knock him out in one round. I tried to knock him out. That was wrong for me, from the beginning.
“The guy was tough, I didn’t accept that. From the first second to the last second, I tried to finish him. Next time, I’m going to work to be a little bit smarter. I’m going to smash somebody.
“It wasn’t something surprising from him, but it was wrong for me. My coach told me all the time, you love to throw down and work more technical. I just want to take his head off. Next time, I’m going to work for that.”
Chimaev came out firing as soon as the fight started, and he nearly earned a finish toward the end of the opening round when he put Burns down with a nasty straight right hand. Burns not only survived but stormed back in the second round with a series of powerful punches that opened a cut on Chimaev’s face and wobbled him during a couple of exchanges.
While he does plan to go back and watch the fight, Chimaev can already identify his shortcomings after going to his first-ever decision.
“I already know [what I did wrong],” Chimaev said. “From the beginning, I tried to knock him out. My coach said to me start slowly, work with your jab and defend. I just go in and just did some crazy s*** and I dropped him and I got more excited. I tried to finish him. I needed to let him up and knock him out again.
“I’m going to watch my fight [one more time] what’s happening there. I don’t care about this s***. I’ll fight again against somebody else.”
In the days and weeks leading up to UFC 273, Chimaev and Burns engaged in some fiery trash talk, especially at the pre-fight press conference as well as the official weigh-ins where they had to be separated on stage.
Following their fight on Saturday, Chimaev not only embraced Burns in the octagon but also paid tribute to him while speaking to UFC color commentator Joe Rogan. He then stopped to check on the one-time title challenger as he was receiving medical care backstage.
While Chimaev isn’t going to change his demeanor, he admitted that perhaps the overall perception about his attitude has been wrong, because as much as he’s always looking to build anticipation whenever he fights, that doesn’t take away the admiration he feels for his opponents.
“I said for all the guys in the UFC, they think I don’t respect the guys,” Chimaev said. “This is the game. I tried to play with his mind and let him make some mistakes. I love that s***. I’ve been watching all the time, all the UFC s***. I try to learn something from everyone and I respect all my opponents. Everyone does this for their family.
“Actually, it was a little bit hard to fight him because I see his kids, they come to me ‘you fight my daddy’ and I said, s***, f*** I don’t need that. I don’t want to fight with some daddy. I need some killer like me, who will kill somebody and don’t care about that s***. I go to him, I said I respect you brother, sorry for punches and we do that for our family and to have fun as well.”
If there’s one benefit to a fight like that, Chimaev proved a lot of critics wrong about his ability to face adversity. He went up against much better competition, yet still found a way to win.
Chimaev took more damage on Saturday than he had in 10 previous fights in his career combined. But in a strange way, that’s exactly what he wanted.
“I like that s***,” he said. “I love my face bloody and sweaty and kick somebody, punch somebody. Make money, I got $50 Gs. I’m happy.
“Before, I didn’t get that fight. It was my first fight like that. I loved it. I was waiting for that for a long time. I had 10 fights and 10 finishes but this fight happened. I bled, sweat and fought three rounds.”
The win will propel Chimaev — who entered the night No. 10 in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings — near the top of the welterweight division, where he will likely sit very close to a potential shot against reigning UFC champion Kamaru Usman. Prior to the win, UFC President Dana White had teased a possible fight between Chimaev and two-time title challenger Colby Covington for later this year.
It appears “Borz” is up for the challenge; then again, he seems ready for anybody the UFC throws at him.
“If that guy don’t call the cops and if Dana White don’t go to jail, I will be happy to come to the fight and smash his face,” Chimaev said about Covington. “Of course [I knock him out].
“I said everybody. I’ll fight everybody. They said [Burns] was No. 2 and Khamzat is No. 11, and the fight was nothing good for Gilbert. Who cares about that s***? We all want to fight each other and make money. We fight for our families. I don’t care who I fight. I get my money, I get my $50 Gs, I knock somebody out and I am happy.”