At UFC 273, Khamzat Chimaev scored the biggest victory of his career, winning a unanimous decision over Gilbert Burns. And Brian Stann told everyone it was coming.
Stann, who served as a UFC analyst and color commentator until 2017, popped back into the MMA consciousness in the lead up to UFC 273, when a video was unearthed of Stann predicting the rise of Khamzat Chimaev, three full years before Chimaev made his UFC debut.
In June 2017, Brian Stann mentioned a welterweight training in Sweden who would one day enter the UFC and make "real waves" pic.twitter.com/0SQ8nRa2LD— Oscar Willis (@oscarswillis) April 4, 2022
Chimaev, of course, has gone on to do exactly what Stann predicted, winning MMA Fighting’s 2020 Breakout Fighter of the Year award and defeating Burns, the No. 4-ranked welterweight in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings, in a Fight of the Year contender. In the aftermath of Chimaev’s win over Burns, Stann spoke with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, and explained how he knew Chimaev was going to be a force so far in advance.
“It’s one of those situations, you make a lot of predictions when you’re an analyst. You talk to a lot people and every once in a while you get one right and the internet doesn’t forget,” Stann said. “So it’s nice to have gotten one right instead of having people text me about one’s I got wrong. But it’s funny, I hadn’t thought back to that in a while, but I remember those moments where I was talking to some folks before an Alexander Gustafsson fight, from that gym, while they were at the hotel and doing the week of the fight workouts.
“I’d get on the mats with some of those guys and they’d just keep telling me about this guy who had a background from Chechnya who was awesome, who was just fantastic and has all the skills and all the makings, and had the mental — they were like, ‘Look, this guy, when they rotate and it’s your turn to go with him for a round, he’s the one that nobody wants to go with.’ Every gym has a couple of those guys, so it’s incredible to see and I think it’s part of the reason, his mentality, why he can make a jump like he did Saturday night. Where you’re 10-0 and you’re facing the No. 2 ranked guy in your division. It was a hell of a jump he made.”
Burns was a huge step up in competition for Chimaev, but the Swedish fighter proved equal to the task, winning a hard-fought scrap that saw “Borz” have to battle back from adversity after getting dropped in the second round. And given how his career has gone thus far, Stann is excited to see where Chimaev can take it.
“It was such a tremendous — I don’t remember such a jump that anybody’s ever taken, and wanted,” Stann said. “It’s one thing to take those fights and those opportunities on short notice, the UFC needs you to fill in and you kind of go and end up being the sacrificial lamb to the stud, but to deliberately want to take on the No. 2 guy in the world, when you’ve only had 10 fights to your name, and someone as dangerous as Gilbert Burns who has legitimate knockout power and can submit you from anywhere, it was just incredible. So I’m excited to see what he can do with 15 fights under his belt.”
Next up for Chimaev appears to be a fight with one-time interim champion Colby Covington, who recently beat Jorge Masvidal in a grudge match at UFC 272 and remains the top contender in the welterweight division. And while some fans are calling for Chimaev to go straight for a title shot instead of another fight, Stann believes Chimaev would be better served to take his time before facing off with Kamaru Usman.
“If I’m managing him, don’t be in such a rush, because the reward is Kamaru Usman, and if you want to try and beat that monster, you’ve got to hope he’s getting real comfortable and making a lot of money and wearing all the name brands and not training as hard, because athletically and mentally right now, Kamaru Usman could be the best fighter on the planet,” Stann said.
“[Chimaev]’s ready, and it will be a fight, [but] do I think that it’s time for him, it’s his best opportunity to beat a guy like Kamaru Usman? I mean, Usman’s an animal, and he’s just so good and he’s still getting better. If I’m managing him — and you’re never gonna convince a fighter to slow down, that’s just the way we have to think — I do everything I can to get him more time, more experience. That fight, and the fact that it went as long as it did against Gilbert, that was the best possible outcome for him.
“To have to go through that, to have to dig deep, I think Colby Covington would be a smart next fight for him because that’s gonna be a challenge too. That’s a really hard fight, but I think he’s ready for that. He’s gonna be competitive. That’s a fight he can go win. I don’t know that he’s ready and can smash Kamaru. I don’t believe he can smash Kamaru like he might say. He has to think that way, but nobody’s walking into the octagon and just walking through Kamaru Usman. Not gonna happen.”