Three fights into his UFC career, Khamzat Chimaev had the world at his feet.
The Chechnyan, fighting out of Sweden, compiled a trio of consecutive victories breaking the company record for the fastest three-fight winning streak. John Phillips was demolished by Chimaev in his UFC debut in July 2020, and barely a fortnight later he secured a first-round knockout of Rhys McKee.
As if all that wasn’t enough, in September 2020 he secured one of the fastest knockouts in the organization’s history, crunching a hook into the unsuspecting jaw of Gerald Meerschaert after just 17 seconds of their bout. It was one of the most destructive starts to a UFC career in quite some time, and fight fans couldn’t wait to see what was next for the 27-year-old.
And then came the silence.
Chimaev was scheduled to fight Leon Edwards, a welterweight with one of the longest active winning runs in the UFC, in December 2020, but complications from a bout of illness meant that this fight had to be postponed.
In the time since, on three separate occasions, the Chechnyan has been forced to withdraw due to lingering side-effects, and at one point, he became so frustrated with his situation that he announced his retirement from MMA on Instagram, a post that has subsequently been deleted.
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A conversation followed with the Head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, who seemingly persuaded Chimaev to have a rethink about his future direction in a posting on his own Instagram page. Dana White also claimed that the fighter made the retirement comments out of the ‘emotion’ of his ill health, according to sources from MMAjunkie.com.
The good news for those following the career of this exciting, up-and-coming talent is that he’s now officially confirmed he will continue on his path of destruction in the UFC, with his next opponent penned into the diary.
The Leech is Out for Blood
Normally you’d expect MMA fighters to have nicknames like ‘The Warrior’ or ‘The Bonecrusher’.
But not Li Jiangling, the Chinese welterweight. He is simply known by the moniker of ‘The Leech’, though what the origins of that name are, nobody’s quite sure. Regardless, the 33-year-old has been a deadly predator in his time in the UFC so far.
He’s made 13 appearances in the company, winning nine of those, and took home Performance of the Night honors on four separate occasions. Presently, Li is ranked twelfth in the welterweight division as per UFC.com, and has been lined up as Chimaev’s next opponent, the proposed date of October 30th at UFC 267 has been mooted. This is a highly-anticipated match as a result of the meteoric rise in the popularity of the sport.
From pay-per-views topping the one-million-mark, surpassing boxing, and even having a UFC slot available at online casinos on bonus comparison sites like Bonus.ca, the sport is finally getting the fanbase it deserves. There is also an entire genre of UFC video games, where Chimiev is rumoured to be featured, as well as merchandise, and movies. Who knows, depending on who wins, Chimaev or Li might get a spot in a movie in the future. They’re certainly contributing to the sport’s global popularity, so they deserve a cameo at least!
Chimaev has been training hard now that his health has improved, but there’s no substitute for getting inside the Octagon and surely there will be some rust in the performance of the adopted Swede.
If he can find those big strikes that have turned the lights out for most of his opponents so far, then Chimaev can serve notice once more that he is ready to dominate the welterweight division.