Khamzat Chimaev, one of the most popular fighters in the UFC, has suggested he wants his next appearance in the promotion to take place in Abu Dhabi.
The Chechen-born Swede, 27, came through his toughest professional test to date on Sunday, when he defeated No 2-ranked welterweight contender Gilbert Burns in a Fight of the Year contender at UFC 273.
Chimaev triumphed by unanimous decision at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, to take his UFC record to five wins from five, while he is 11-0 as a pro.
On Tuesday, amid a series of tweets, Chimaev’s account posted a message asking, “Who is next?” and tagged welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, No 1-ranked challenger Colby Covington and No 3 contender Leon Edwards. The tweet included the hashtag “Abu Dhabi”.
The UFC returns to the capital later this year, with UFC 281 at Etihad Arena on October 22. As of yet, no bouts have been announced, although the card will feature at least one world title fight.
Abu Dhabi has provided the setting for three of Chimaev’s five UFC appearances: he made his debut in the capital during the inaugural Fight Island in July 2020, before returning 10 days later to set a modern-day record for quickest turnaround between wins in the promotion. In October, Chimaev defeated China’s Li Jingliang via first-round submission at UFC 267 at Etihad Arena.
In the build-up to UFC 273, UFC president Dana White said Colby Covington represented the most likely next opponent for Chimaev. The American (17-3) is coming off a unanimous decision win against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 272 last month having lost previously in his championship rematch with Usman.
Asked on Sunday immediately following the victory against Burns about the prospect of fighting Covington, Chimaev told BT Sport: “I don’t care. The guy, [if] he want to fight, of course I’ll fight with him. If they give me somebody else, I’ll fight them. I wait for my title. Dana White said to me after this fight they are going want to see you fight for the title.”
On Sunday, White said of Chimaev: “He just beat the No 2 welterweight in the world with a couple of fights in the UFC. If you don’t think he’s the real deal, you’re out of your mind.”