Khamzat Chimaev may not sound particularly interested in it at present, but there’s a UFC middleweight championship fight in his near future. Chimaev overcame a game against Kamaru Usman in the co-main event of UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday to come away victorious.
UFC president Dana White previously declared Chimaev vs. Usman a No. 1 contender’s fight for champion Sean Strickland. Chimaev put forth a dominant first round and was competitive across the remaining two frames to punch his ticket to gold.
“I didn’t come here for the title. I came to make money and be happy,” Chimaev said during his post-fight interview. “I was in a gym two meters wide. I didn’t have food.
“It’s crazy. I love my job, and I’m happy today to have money and food for my mom.”
The second and third rounds primarily took place on the feet, with Usman seemingly having a slight edge, but Chimaev secured a takedown partway through Round 3 that likely made the difference. The fight was declared a majority decision for Chimaev, with two judges scoring it 29-27 in his favor and one ruling it a draw.
Chimaev may be too worried about the UFC middleweight title, but he was awarded his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt by his coaches.
“This belt means big things,” Chimaev said.
Chimaev was originally scheduled to fight Paulo Costa; however, Costa was yanked from the card after undergoing elbow surgery four weeks after the fight for a nasty staph infection. Former UFC welterweight champion Usman agreed to make his middleweight debut on short notice and put forward a valiant effort.
Chimaev improved to a perfect 13-0. Usman (20-4) is on his first career losing streak after losing to Chimaev and twice to Leon Edwards.
In the main event, lightweight champion Islam Makhachev continued to reign supreme as he turned away Alexander Volkanovski for a second time with a vicious head-kick knockout in the opening round.
Makhachev, who was scheduled to fight Charles Oliveira until an injury in training camp forced him out, stayed calm throughout the entirety of the fight as he controlled Volkanovski with his clinch and low kicks before deciding to go high and hitting the perfect spot.