Khamzat Chimaev will make his long-awaited UFC comeback in Abu Dhabi in October, after his bout against China’s Li Jingliang at UFC 267 was confirmed on Thursday.
Chimaev, one of the breakout stars of the inaugural Fight Island series in the capital last summer, has not competed since September because of complications resulting from contracting Covid-19. The unbeaten Chechen, 27, boasts a mixed martial arts record of 9-0 (3-0 in UFC).
Chimaev’s return to action strengthens an already stellar card for UFC 267 at Etihad Arena, which will feature two title bouts. On Wednesday, the UFC confirmed Jan Blachowicz will defend his light-heavyweight crown against No 1-ranked contender Glover Teixeira, while bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling takes on Petr Yan in a rematch of their title clash at UFC 259 in March.
Also on Thursday, the promotion announced UFC 267 will feature a light-heavyweight match-up between Shamil Gamzatov and Michal Oleksiejczuk, taking the number of confirmed bouts to four. Although other bouts have been mooted, the UFC is expected to release more of the card within the coming days.
A fast-rising UFC prospect, Chimaev knows Abu Dhabi well having made his eagerly anticipated promotional debut in the emirate during Fight Island 1 in July last year. While competing at both welterweight and middleweight, he made UFC history for the quickest turnaround between fights, at 10 days. He won both bouts convincingly.
His subsequent 17-second win against veteran Gerald Meerschaert on his Las Vegas bow in September means Chimaev has spent an accumulative four-and-a-half minutes inside the octagon to register his three victories.
Chimaev, who lives and trains in Sweden, was booked to face welterweight contender Leon Edwards in December, but the bout was cancelled three weeks before when both fighters tested positive for Covid-19. The clash was rescheduled twice, initially for Abu Dhabi in January, for the promotion's third Fight Island residency.
In March, Chimaev hinted on social media that he was retiring from the sport as he battled the ill-effects of the virus. However, UFC president Dana White quickly dismissed suggestions Chimaev would walk away, saying he was clearly upset by his delayed recovery from Covid-19.