Khamzat Chimaev delivered superbly on his hugely anticipated return to the UFC in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night, then promptly declared “I’m the champ”.
The breakout star of 2020, Chimaev had not fought since racing to 3-0 in the UFC last September, as he battled a particularly debilitating case of Covid-19.
However, the Chechen-born Swede made up for lost time at UFC 267 in the capital, submitting No 11-ranked welterweight Li Jingliang in the first round at Etihad Arena. His victory, in the card’s 10th bout, was greeted with one of the loudest cheers of the night.
Whooping and hollering inside the octagon as he waited to speak to former two-division champion Daniel Cormier, Chimaev screamed: “Everybody. I come here for everybody. Kill everybody. I’m the champ.”
With the victory, Chimaev climbed to 10-0 as a professional, with all wins coming via finishes. In his four appearances the UFC – three have taken place in Abu Dhabi – he has landed a total of 254 strikes while receiving only two. Against Li, he landed all 25 strikes. His Chinese opponent was 0 for 1.
Chimaev, 27, began the bout by lifting Li over to the far side of the octagon, directly in front of UFC president Dana White – in what appeared to be an intentional move towards the American. Afterwards, he apparently called out White for looking at his phone at one point during the action.