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Coach: Colby Covington is ‘the next step up’ for Khamzat Chimaev

Khamzat Chimaev’s rise to the top could see him go through Colby Covington.

The undefeated fighter’s coach Andreas Michael believes the next challenge for his star pupil should be Covington, a two-time UFC title challenger and the No. 2 welterweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings.

“I would like to see him fight Colby,” Michael said Monday on The MMA Hour. “Colby would be a good fight. We’re after fighting the best, and Colby’s the next step up, and we keep on going. … We should fight the best, and if we’re not good enough to be there, then we shouldn’t be there. That’s how I think. Because right now it doesn’t get easier.

“It just gets tougher, and if you can’t handle these guys that [UFC welterweight champion Kamaru] Usman has handled, then we’re gonna have a problem. And he can handle them, and he will handle them, and he will win.”

In his most recent outing at UFC 273, Chimaev improved to 11-0 as a pro and 5-0 in the UFC with a unanimous decision win over past title challenger Gilbert Burns. Ahead of the fight, Burns was widely considered to be the most significant test of Chimaev’s career, and the bout lived up to that expectation as Chimaev went to the cards for the first time in his career following three back-and-forth rounds; Chimaev had finished his first four UFC opponents.

Given the damage taken against Burns, Michael wants to see Chimaev take his time before fighting again.

“This is where I have to use my experience now and hold him back, because fights like that take a little bit of time for the body to recover,” Michael said. “I would like him to fight maybe in September, October, somewhere there. If he listens to me.”

The lineup to fight Covington is a long one – the brash American has fostered a number of potential feuds and was recently called out by another welterweight contender, Belal Muhammad.

Should Covington sign on for a fight with Chimaev, Michael sees an ideal scenario where Usman defends his title against Leon Edwards first and then Chimaev goes through Covington to earn his own championship opportunity.

“I just hope we take steps forward,” Michael said. “People are talking about other fights and for me, if I could choose, I’m not interested in any other fight. I want steps forward, I don’t want steps back. I don’t want anyone building their name on our name. I want us to build our name on other guys’ names if you understand what I mean.”

He later added, “At the end of the day I hope that we get Colby and then with God’s help we win that fight then you say we get the winner of Usman vs. Leon.”

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