Mohammed Yahya: Training with Khamzat Chimaev has been so motivating ahead of UFC debut

In his second column in the build-up to his historic appearance at UFC 294, the Emirati fighter shares his insight into training with the 'superstar' contender

Powered by automated translation

I remember the first time Khamzat Chimaev came into the gym to train with us. It was last year, I think, and we welcomed him at TK MMA Fit with open arms.

He’s such a superstar that in the past few years people are always hassling him for pictures and stuff, but I just kept it real, treated him as a normal training partner and then as you would a normal friend.

Last year, Khamzat liked working with my striking coach Khusan Majlimov so much that he based his entire training camp in Dubai ahead of UFC 294 next week.

Having a legend like Khamzat training with us, with his following, his experience, and his talent – just everything about him – has been incredible. It’s great having his energy. You feel when he walks into the room that everyone’s own energy is different, simply because of his presence. It’s kind of like you used to hear about Mike Tyson.

Like Tyson back in the day, Khamzat’s work ethic is crazy, his power too. It’s amazing to see someone at that high level up close, who’s talked about that much, who’s performing that way in the UFC – he’s 12-0 and tipped to be a future champion for a reason – to have him right next to you, watching him train and then training with him. I’m following in his footsteps.

I was doing the same circuits as Khamzat, these fight simulations where every week we try to beat our previous week’s record to show how much improvement we’ve made. They’re usually five minutes of fighting championship rounds, and having Khamzat as a gauge, someone to live up to in every aspect, has been so motivating.

And his strength? Wow. Obviously we’re different weights – me, lightweight; him, middleweight – so I only moved around with him in touch sparring, nothing taxing. But I’ve seen him just flip and throw wrestlers.

There’s a five-time national wrestling champion with us and Khamzat was manhandling him. And the wrestler was maybe a bit heavier than him, as well. I wrestled with this guy before and have seen what he does to people and felt his power.

So for him to get rag-dolled, you understand how much power Khamzat has.

You realise why he performs the way he does inside the octagon, why he’s managed some of his devastating knockouts or how he manhandles people. These performances have placed so much respect on his name; people know what he’s capable of and don’t want to be on his wrong side. I’ve been so fortunate to train alongside him for my UFC debut.

But, as a person, Khamzat is not probably what the media portrays. He’s such a nice human being, very humble, and always willing to help anyone or give advice.

When he found out I would be competing for the first time in the UFC, he said, ‘The media commitments, and the commitments with the promotion, are going to kill you, because it’s your debut’. It’s great having someone who’s been there, seen and done it, to be that sounding board.

And I honestly can’t wait. It’s a few days to go, and I’m feeling much more excited. Obviously, I’m not looking forward to the weight cut – even if I never struggle to make it since I’ve been the same weight since I was 16, through my 22 wins in kickboxing and then my professional MMA career.

But I’m excited to go get checked into the hotel early next week, get that UFC fight kit I’ve been waiting to wear for a while now.

With the last-minute changes to the card – Alex Volkanovski in for Charles Oliveira against Islam Makhachev, and Kamaru Usman now facing Khamzat instead of Paulo Costa – I honestly think UFC 294 has gotten even better. Let me tell you, no one is going to want to fight Khamzat on such short notice.

And, having trained alongside him, I’d say I’m as ready as him for this fight against Trevor Peek.

If both Khamzat and I are victorious – I don’t think Khamzat’s going to lose anytime soon – then we’ll celebrate, maybe at a gathering party with the whole team.

For me to get the win on October 21 is everything right now; nothing else matters, nothing means more to me at this moment. It’s something I’ve waited my whole life for, so I’m not going to let it slip.

Updated: October 13, 2023, 5:18 AM