As the UFC closed out another action-packed year of mixed martial arts, we remember that fans were pleasantly gifted with the return of Khamzat Chimaev in 2021.
Chimaev is the latest hype-train product in the welterweight division, but following his dominant 3-fight winning UFC tenure in 2020, illness put a hold on the Russian-born fighter’s rise to stardom.
Critics speculated if Chimaev could deliver the same dominant performances amongst the 170lbs top-ranked fighters, but a 2021 return versus Li Jingliang soon answered that looming question. Chimaev emulated his past results by finishing Jingliang within the initial five minutes of the contest, and now, the most anticipated news revolves around Chimaev’s next opponent.
Ten professional MMA bouts, six knockouts, and four submissions, Chimaev has become a betting enthusiasts dream fighter, giving bettors a simple choice when attempting to return a winning bet slip.
Chimaev has made UFC picks simple when he’s scheduled to compete on a fight card, and although the sportsbooks have realised his potential by marking up his odds, his inside the distance prop has additionally been a money maker.
With that said, how much longer can the 27-year-old from Chechnya make fighter’s look like they’re out of his league? Entering the top-fifteen rankings after a mere four UFC bouts is impressive, but the level of competition won’t be as simple. Will anybody stop Chimaev on his path to championship glory? From a personal standpoint, I won’t be wagering against his dominance, no matter how tempting the odds could be for his opposition. If there’s a profitable prediction worth making, it’s a bet slip that contains Khamzat Chimaev.
Belal Muhammad Believes He Can End the Hype
Number #5 ranked Belal Muhammad recently earned rankings boast himself, defeating the legendary Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson in a one-sided unanimous decision victory at UFC Vegas 45. Is Belal calling for a title shot? Nope, Belal has seemingly turned his attention to the #11 ranked Khamzat Chimaev.
“To me, rankings don’t mean anything. It’s all about hype,” Muhammad told MMA Fighting. “It’s about who the UFC wants to push and who’s that guy? Who’s that [Conor] McGregor now? Who’s that next big star? As we saw last year with [Jorge] Masvidal, where it’s like, you don’t have to be No. 2 to get the title shot. You don’t have to be No. 1 to get the title shot.
“It’s about who’s getting that push right now in the right moment. Right now, in that right moment, [with] Khamzat, you get the most hype from beating a guy like him than anybody [else] honestly.”
UFC president Dana White went on record to express that the promotion is having trouble finding opponents for Chimaev.
“Nobody wants to fight this guy,” White said of Chimaev. “Everybody wants to get out on social media and say this or that. But when it comes down to it, nobody is trying to fight Khamzat Chimaev. I don’t blame them.”
But Muhammad, riding a seven-fight win streak and a 10-1 UFC record overall, doesn’t fear the latest hype surrounding Chimaev.
“Do I know why he’s got all this hype? He’s got four wins [UFC],” Muhammad said. “Do I think he’s the Terminator because of those four wins? No. Do I believe that he’s this pay-per-view star because of those four wins? No. But the UFC does.
“If they think that, then I’m the one that’s going to have to put a stop to it.”
Whether Muhammad is Chimaev’s next opponent or not, the online social media battle has commenced. Both fighters have exchanged some heated words for one another.
“When you got a finger in your eye, you gave up; how you ever going to think to fight me? Bullsh*t boy,” Chimaev said with a series of laughing emojis next to his rhetorical question on Twitter.
This statement has been one of several troll-like Tweets sent from Chimaev aimed towards Muhammad, but in true Belal fashion, he soon fired back when referring to the rumors that Chimaev planned to retire last year after a battle with COVID-19.
“Didn’t you retire because you had a cold? Don’t worry, friend, I got some Nyquil for you,” Muhammad posted.
Is The Seed Planted?
The Twitter exchange between Muhammad and Chimaev could undoubtedly be the seed that grows into a scheduled bout. Muhammad, now a top-five ranked welterweight, seems to have no issue fighting the No. 11 ranked Chimaev despite this kind of ranking differential being a rarity for callouts.
Neil Magny is another top-ranked welterweight who’s been vocal about fighting Chimaev. Still, the latest Twitter exchange involving Muhammad has leapfrogged the potential of that bout, and the MMA community interest is now with Muhammad versus Chimaev.
However, Dana White said it best when he mentioned that online trash talk doesn’t always replicate the same desires behind closed doors. Muhammad could merely engage in an online war with Chimaev for entertainment purposes, and a fighter’s true intentions aren’t revealed until a contract is signed. I guess only time will tell.