Khamzat Chimaev faces arguably the biggest test of his career to date as he takes on former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 294. The fight was only put together because Paulo Costa pulled out at late notice.
Chimaev has finished every opponent he has ever faced except one. At UFC 273 he went the distance with Gilbert Burns and that changed the aftermath of the undefeated star,
“I’ll never give a prediction before the fight. Everyone says he’s going to do this or that, but in the cage, it unfolds differently. After the Gilbert Burns fight, I learned a lot of things. I used to think one punch would take him down, but the game played against me. You have to stay focused from the first second to the last. I have a different mindset now,” he told UFC.com.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) October 19, 2023
Chimaev is making his middleweight debut. Instead of facing Costa who is currently ranked #6 in the division he finds himself facing an opponent who normally competes at 170lbs.
Usman only replaced Costa last week but Chimaev says the switch of opponent has had no impact on his plans or preparation,
“I haven’t planned anything. Life never allows me to plan anything. I’m ready for everybody. I don’t train for someone else; I focus on what I’m going to do. I train for my own objectives.”
View this post on Instagram
Plenty of excuses
Usman is moving up in weight to take a fight at short notice so a loss is unlikely to set his ambitions back too far, particularly if the move to middleweight proves to be a one off.
Chimaev believes his opponent already plenty of excuses should Usman’s performance turn out to be below par. For his part the 29 year old doesn’t sound concerned that the late notice nature of the fight could tarnish a potential victory.
While Chimaev respects Usman for stepping in to fill the void left by Usman he won’t let it affect his own attitude,
“Respect for taking the fight short notice. He already has excuses. People already says ‘oh he didn’t have a camp etc’. For me it doesn’t matter. I come, I finish everyone. ”
His philosophy heading into UFC 294 is a simple one,
“I’ve just come here to smash the guy.”