Khamzat Chimaev is not retiring from the UFC despite strongly suggesting his was, according to the promotion's president Dana White.
The fast-rising prospect, the breakout star of the inaugural Fight Island in Abu Dhabi last summer, posted a cryptic message on his social media early on Tuesday hinting he was ready to walk away from the sport as he continues to battle Covid-19 side effects.
A Google translation of Chimaev’s post on Instagram, originally written in Russia, read: “I want to say thank you to everyone for their support in my path in this sport. I think I’m done, yes, I know that I didn’t take the belt, but this is not the most important victory in this life, it may upset you, but my heart and body tell me everything. I want to say a huge thank you to my team @allstarsgymsweden. I want to say a huge thank you @ufc.”
However, White later told website MMA Junkie that Chimaev had posted the statement while clearly emotional, and that he expected him to return to the octagon sometime this year. Chimaev, who had been slated to compete again in June, is currently receiving treatment in Las Vegas under the UFC’s guidance.
“When he got here, the doctors took care of him, and they put him on prednisone, which is a nasty steroid,” White said. "So he’s on prednisone, and he’s supposed to be taking this thing and chilling, relaxing, and letting himself recover.
“He went in and trained today, felt like [expletive], and got super emotional and posted that. He’s not supposed to be training, but you know, this guy’s a savage. He wants to fight like every weekend, and now he can’t even train, so he just got emotional and posted that. But he ain’t quitting.”
Chimaev, 3-0 in the UFC since debuting in July (9-0 in professional MMA), was booked to face Leon Edwards in December, but the bout was cancelled three weeks before after both fighters tested positive for Covid-19. The clash was rescheduled twice – initially for Abu Dhabi in January – only for Chimaev to withdraw citing struggles with recovering from the virus.
On Tuesday, the Chechen-born fighter also posted pictures on his Instagram Stories that appeared to show him coughing up blood into a sink.
“He was flown out here so that we could take care of him,” White said. “We get him taken care of. They got him on medication. He’s going to be fine, and he goes in and starts training. He’s not supposed to be training, and he’s super frustrated.
“He’s training when he’s supposed to be resting. He’s got to stay off, at least while he’s on this medication.”
Chimaev's three victories thus far in the UFC have taken him an accumulative four-and-a-half minutes inside the cage. His most recent win, against veteran Gerald Meerschaert in Las Vegas in September, lasted 17 seconds.