Khamzat Chimaev insists he is upgrade on Kamaru Usman ahead of UFC 294 clash

Unbeaten Russia-born fighter faces former long-reigning welterweight champion in Abu Dhabi on Saturday

Khamzat Chimaev during an open workout in Abu Dhabi ahead of his UFC 294 fight against Kamaru Usman. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Powered by automated translation

Just like a newer version of the iPhone, Khamzat Chimaev claims he’s simply an upgrade on Kamaru Usman ahead of their hugely anticipated clash at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi.

Unbeaten in all 12 professional bouts, Chimaev faces the former long-reigning welterweight champion in the co-main event at Etihad Arena on Saturday night.

Usman, who lost his past two fights having won the previous 19, agreed last week to step in for Paulo Costa after the Brazilian was pulled from the card because of an elbow injury.

While the 170lb champion, Usman had been tipped to take on Chimaev, but now will do so at middleweight.

“Since day one, when I get to the UFC, everyone spoke about Khamzat-Usman, Khamzat-Usman, our wrestling skills, our striking, all of these things,” Chimaev, 29, said on Wednesday during the official media day.

“Usman is a fighter like me. But he’s old version, I’m new. He’s different; like [when] iPhones come out. He’s like iPhone 5, and I’m like the Pro.”

When Chimaev’s analogy was later put to Usman, the Nigerian-born American smiled and initially paid respect to his upcoming opponent.

“He’s as advertised,” Usman, 36, said. “He’s very tough, he’s big, he could strike, he could wrestle, he can grapple, he can do it all. So can I. I think he’s as advertised, but you don’t know until you know.

“Ignorance is bliss sometimes. I give him all the props in the world. He’s definitely done everything he needed to do with what he’s been presented with.

“But iPhone Pros don’t fit in certain pockets. You might need just a regular iPhone. They both take good pictures, and they both work just fine.”

On taking the fight on short notice, Usman said: “I wanted this. I asked months and months ago. But the company wasn’t interested at the time and wanted to go in a different direction.

“Then they ran into a problem. Who do you call at a time like that? You call a bad man to step in.”

Usman added: “Khamzat is impressive. He’s done his job and taken care of his opposition. But this is where you’re tested. You want to go up against the best; it’s a challenge.

“This is what I dream about, fighting the best, and I will never pass up that opportunity. It’s what I love to do, and I’m going to maximise the opportunity.

Chimaev, now one of the sport’s marquee names, has blazed a trail through the UFC since debuting in Abu Dhabi in 2020. Three of his six victories in the promotion to this point have taken place in the capital.

Now based in Dubai, the Chechen-born athlete said he not surprised Costa did not make the octagon to face him at UFC 294. Chimaev just wanted to compete for the first since September last year.

“When I see the media that [Costa is] jumping out, I wrote to [UFC CEO] Dana White and then said, ‘Brother, please give me someone, I need to fight.

“[Usman] came for money, and the money fight is me.”

Updated: October 18, 2023, 4:33 PM