UFC sensation Khamzat Chimaev is training his sights on welterweight rival Neil Magny, with the Russian-born star’s manager offering positive signs on his comeback despite the recent noises from UFC boss Dana White.
Chimaev continues to recover from the lingering after-effects of the Covid infection which put paid to his biggest moment in the UFC spotlight, which should have come this weekend at UFC Fight Night 187 against Leon Edwards in Las Vegas.
Instead, that fight fell through for a third time in February as the Chechen-born Chimaev was flown to the US by the UFC for specialist treatment for the continuing ill-health he suffered from the virus.
Recent weeks have seen confusion over what the future has in store for the undefeated 26-year-old, after he rocked social media with a disillusioned message at the start of March saying that he was retiring, seemingly unable to shake the ravages of the virus and the effects it has caused to his ability to train.
That decision then appeared to be abruptly reversed after an intervention from Chechen leader and MMA fanatic Ramzan Kadyrov.
UFC boss Dana White, meanwhile, has suggested that Chimaev was simply emotional at not being able to train the way he wanted, and was incapable of following doctors’ orders to rest and recuperate in order to fully restore himself before getting back in the gym.
Ahead of this weekend’s action in Las Vegas – where Chicago’s Belal Muhammad has stepped in for Chimaev to face Edwards – White reiterated his concerns over Chimaev rushing his return to training.
“The problem is, the reason that everybody loves him is because the guy is an absolute savage. He wants to fight every weekend. He believes he’ll win the world title right now,” White told BT Sport.
“But the problem with a guy like that is you can’t calm him down. He should be resting right now. He shouldn’t be training at all. He should be resting and recovering, but he won’t do it.
“At the end of the day, he’s a grown man, and we can’t control what he does on a daily basis. I don’t know how this is going to play out. We’ll see.”
But that somewhat cautious assessment stands in contrast to the picture presented by Chimaev himself and his manager, Ali Abdelaziz.
Sharing an image on Instagram Stories of a video call with Chimaev, the Dominance MMA founder captioned the post “The Wolf is doing good,” referring to Chimaev by his fighting nickname of ‘Borz’, which translates as ‘wolf’ from his native Chechen.
The Swedish-based Chimaev has also signaled his appetite to return, posting an image of himself to his 1.7 million followers and tagging American 170lbs rival Neil Magny along with a ‘sush’ emoji.
Chimaev and Magny have previously jousted online, with the former vowing that he would give the 33-year-old Illinois native a “Chechen slap” if they cross paths inside the octagon or outside of it.
Chimaev’s coronavirus woes halted the momentum which saw him explode onto the UFC scene with three wins in the space of just 66 days last year.
His contest with Edwards – the number three-ranked fighter at 170lbs – was set to hand him an early chance to assert himself among the welterweight elite, with the likes of UFC boss White tipping Chimaev for big things in 2021.
As it stands, and assuming his recovery goes to plan, the 9-0 Chimaev is targeting a return in June, if not before.
Magny, meanwhile, was last in action in January when he lost a unanimous decision verdict against Michael Chiesa on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
Magny currently stands at number nine on the UFC’s welterweight rungs, and has won five of his last seven outings inside the octagon.
Responding to Chimaev’s latest callout, Magny told the rising welterweight star: “Make sure you clear that with daddy first.”