The UFC world is alive with anticipation, as rising star Khamzat Chimaev prepares to face off against the formidable Paulo Costa at UFC 294. But ‘Borz,’ the Chechen juggernaut and recent UAE citizen, isn’t merely focusing on his immediate opponent. With his gaze firmly fixed on the horizon, Chimaev has grand plans unfolding.
In the volatile realm of UFC, where a single punch or a takedown can pivot the trajectory of an entire career, most fighters prefer to remain grounded, focusing on the immediate battle at hand. Chimaev, however, is cut from a different cloth. With Sean Strickland having won the belt but still without a title defense in sight, the former sees a window of opportunity, and he’s determined to leap through it. His confidence is unwavering, stemming from both his track record and sheer will.
Articulating his ambitions, Chimaev recently shared on his YouTube vlog, “Now it’s my time. Smash that guy [Costa], then it doesn’t matter if it will be Izzy or Strickland or somebody else. We’re coming for them.” This declaration isn’t mere bravado. Chimaev genuinely respects Strickland, often acknowledging his hard work, discipline, and accomplishments. “Strickland, coming for him,” he emphasized, adding, “He works hard, deserves it, the guy is always in the gym, now he got the belt.” Yet, in the same breath, Chimaev’s aspirations are evident. He perceives the title as his destiny and is unyielding in his quest.
Taking a trip down memory lane, Chimaev isn’t unfamiliar with the middleweight territory. In fact, he made quite the statement in this division with a staggering knockout win against Gerald Meerschaert in September 2020. The shift from welterweight to middleweight isn’t merely about pounds; for Chimaev, it’s transformative. No longer bound by the dietary rigors of the welterweight category, he’s rejuvenated, both in spirit and physique. Elaborating on this, he stated, “Different power, we eat different, not hungry anymore… Now, more training than before, more food, more energy, different power, different energy, that’s good.” Reflecting on his clash with Meerschaert, he confidently remarked, “That’s my real power.”
Glancing at Chimaev’s MMA CV, it’s a testament to his prowess. With a pristine record of 12-0, his UFC tenure is a tapestry of resounding victories. From overcoming stalwarts like Rhys McKee to besting formidable opponents like Kevin Holland, Chimaev’s journey is emblematic of his undying spirit. Most of these triumphs, mind you, weren’t drawn-out battles but swift, decisive stoppages.
Contrastingly, Paulo Costa (14-2) is no mere stepping stone. Rising from the ashes of a two-bout losing streak, Costa showcased his mettle with a unanimous decision victory over ex-champ Luke Rockhold in August 2022. As these two titans prepare for their clash, the stakes are astronomically high.
UFC 294, set against the luxurious backdrop of Abu Dhabi, UAE, is scheduled for October 21. While the Chimaev-Costa bout is undoubtedly the showstopper, the event also boasts of a riveting lightweight contest between erstwhile champs Islam Makhachev and Charles Oliveira.
The middleweight division, of late, has witnessed a whirlwind of changes, most notably Israel Adesanya’s oscillating fortunes with the title and Sean Strickland’s meteoric rise. This fluidity hints at a potential opening, and Chimaev, with his hawk-eyed focus, perceives this as his golden ticket. A triumph over Costa could very well be his boarding pass to a title shot.
Yet, the path isn’t devoid of obstacles. Costa, as the guardian of Chimaev’s championship dreams, isn’t going to relent easily. With Chimaev’s assertions reaching a crescendo, the MMA community is well aware that pre-match prognostications can often be treacherous. As both fighters step into the octagon, their careers, reputations, and dreams hang in the balance.
As the D-day for UFC 294 inches closer, the paramount question looms: Will Chimaev’s prophecies materialize, or will Costa emerge as the unexpected roadblock? One thing’s for sure, as these behemoths lock horns, the world will be glued to their screens, awaiting the outcome.