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Chael Sonnen questions why Khamzat Chimaev is in limbo with Paulo Costa fight off the table

MMA: SEP 10 UFC 279
Khamzat Chimaev
Photo by Amy Kaplan/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Chael Sonnen has a simple question: Where in the world is Khamzat Chimaev?

When last we saw Chimaev, the two-division threat made short work of Kevin Holland in a 180-pound catchweight bout at UFC 279 eight months ago. That performance was marred by Chimaev badly missing the welterweight limit for a scheduled headlining fight against Nate Diaz, a gaffe that forced the top three fights on the card to be reshuffled.

Chimaev hasn’t been booked to compete since, though it is unclear why. According to comments Chimaev recently made on Twitter, the UFC has not been offering him fights — a claim that the promotion is yet to respond to.

For some time, it looked as though Chimaev and middleweight contender Paulo Costa were on a collision course, with the two butting heads on several occasions both on social media and in public, but the UFC recently announced that Costa will instead fight Ikram Aliskerov on July 29 at UFC 291.

On his You’re Welcome podcast, Sonnen weighed in and expressed his disappointment that the UFC did not make Chimaev the first fight of Costa’s new contract.

“There’s only going to be one time where you’re going to get [Costa] to do a match that otherwise you might not be able to get him to do, and it’s right now,” Sonnen said. ”It’s right when you redo a contract and you’re first one back, ‘It’s your first one back, it’s right now.’ I thought that card was going to be played against Chimaev.”

Costa recently snapped a two-fight skid with a unanimous decision win over Luke Rockhold this past August. The one-time middleweight title challenger is one of the division’s more popular contenders due to his exciting fighting style and quirky social media persona. The bout with Aliskerov is somewhat of a head-scratcher, given that Aliskerov only recently made his UFC debut with a first-round knockout of Phil Hawes.

Sonnen added that he is frustrated with how the UFC has handled the undefeated Chimaev following his incredible UFC Fight Island debut in 2020 that saw him score two wins in two weight classes in 10 days.

“Now I thought that because Paulo and Chimaev told me they were going to fight, I had very good reason and there was no way that [Costa vs. Aliskerov] was the plan,” Sonnen said. “[Aliskerov] just fought two weeks ago and when he got done, he called out Bo Nickal. This gentleman versus Paulo Costa was never a thought, but here we are. Why? Why are we here? It seems like a great fight, I’m completely in, I’m completely on board. Why’s [Aliskerov] not fighting Bo Nickal? What was wrong with that idea?

“Why is Paulo Costa not fighting Chimaev as scheduled, and, more importantly, why are both of these guys booked that I’m speaking about and the one left without a partner is Chimaev? I’d like to know. It’s not a huge conspiracy whatever the answer is. It’s not a huge deal. How come we don’t know? How come we don’t have a reporter within the sport that would find that out? How come there isn’t a marketing arm or a PR team somewhere that would already give us resolution to that, because it would be fascinating. It would be a really great topic.

“I don’t agree with anything that has been done with Chimaev. None. You won’t get Sonnen to sign off on any of that, but boy was I fascinated as it played out. The accidental marketing experiment of taking Chimaev and turning him around instantly, it ended up being a seven-day weigh-in, eight days until the fight, or a six-day weigh-in and seven days until the fight, at two different weight classes, that was the most important thing. It was the most important thing and I continually have to tell you that because the marketing and the PR team never has. I’m not sure that they’re even aware that it happened, quite frankly.”

Chimaev’s situation isn’t helped by the fact that he’s willing to compete in two weight classes, a choice that benefited him when he started his UFC career and is now seemingly causing confusion as to what division he actually plans to pursue a title in. He has previously called out middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, but Adesanya now appears to be waiting on the winner of a contenders’ bout between Robert Whittaker and Dricus Du Plessis that takes place on July 8 at UFC 290. The winner of that bout could potentially fight Adesanya in Sydney, Australia, on Sept. 10 at UFC 293, though that event is still in its planning stages.

Sonnen just wants to know why Chimaev hasn’t been factored into these plans at all.

“We’ve been told in no uncertain terms, very explicitly we were told that Chimaev will have to do one fight at 185 successfully before he can be in talks of a title,” Chimaev said. “But now we have a date and a venue and a champion and now we have a top guy, we broke up a fight, who’s now available. They’re talking about getting Du Plessis or Robert Whittaker and getting one of them available to take on Izzy, which would be a return — you don’t have to wonder who’s going to win that fight. That fight should have been broken up, it never should have been made. We don’t have to wonder who’s going to win that fight.

“So Robert Whittaker’s going to come out of that fight, he’s going to eliminate the top contender the champion wants, and now we’re going to be faced with do we want to send ‘Bobby Knuckles’ against the ‘Stylebender,’ we send them back to Australia, which currently has the gate [record], 57,000 people live in an arena, do we want to do that, and if we do do that, what do we do with Chimaev? And nobody has yet to make that connection until now.”

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