Chimaev’s growing legend has been one of the UFC’s success stories in a most unconventional of years, with the previously unheralded ‘Borz’ now being mentioned in the same breath as some of the promotion’s most experienced contenders.
However, the ease in which Chimaev has dispatched his three opponents in the UFC hasn’t exactly formed a procession of fighters looking to challenge him. Several names have been mentioned, ranging from Demian Maia to Chris Weidman and even Israel Adesanya but, so far at least, there has been no concrete indication as to who the UFC will nominate for Chimaev’s next test.
One fighter whose head has appears to have turned is Leon Edwards. Despite previously distancing himself from a fight with the unranked Chimaev, things have recently changed for the Brit who is in the midst of an eight-fight win streak in the welterweight division after he was removed from the official UFC rankings on Thursday due to inactivity.
Edwards hasn’t fought in the UFC since defeating Rafael Dos Anjos in July 2019 – but his recent absence from the cage certainly isn’t for a lack of trying. A main event fight with former champ Tyron Woodley was nixed on fight week this past March due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, while he was also ruled out from a title bout with Kamaru Usman for the same issue.
Now unranked and apparently with something to prove, Edwards has set a target on Chimaev’s back.
“I’m still in the rankings,” Edwards wrote on Twitter. “F*ck all the inactivity, the only reason I haven’t fought is because all these so called top guys turned me down.
“Khamzat want to fight then?“
Within minutes, the reply came: “I’m always ready to fight. Let’s go. Rock’n’roll baby.”
This represents a significant change in tack for the 18-3 Edwards, who had previously dictated that Chimaev needed some ranked wins before facing a fighter of his caliber.
“He has to at least beat somebody in the top f*cking 25 before you go straight to f*cking fight number 3,” Edwards said earlier this month.
“Then we can go and start talking from there, but the MMA community is literally if you feed them anything, they’ll buy into it. It is what it is.”
But now with that rankings point moot, whether deliberately or otherwise, the UFC appear to have manufactured the ideal test for both men. Should Edwards hand Chimaev his first career defeat it would add significant ballast to his own world title credentials.
But if Chimaev gets his hand raised? It will be hard to deny that he deserves his very own spot at the top of the division.