In a surprising turn of events, Usman (20-3 MMA, 15-2 UFC) has agreed to step into a middleweight bout against Chimaev (12-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) with just under two weeks’ notice. The eagerly awaited UFC 294 co-main event is scheduled to take place at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. Fans can catch the main card on pay-per-view, set to kick off at an unusual time of 2 p.m. ET following the preliminary fights on ESPN+.
Chimaev, known for his flawless professional MMA record, is widely regarded as a rising star in the sport. Nevertheless, the former UFC welterweight champion, Usman, is unfazed and intends to match Chimaev’s prowess in every aspect of the impending bout.
Usman acknowledges Chimaev’s skills, describing him as strong, big, fast, and versatile in various martial arts disciplines, including wrestling, grappling, and striking. However, Usman firmly believes that he possesses these same attributes. He emphasizes that in the world of combat sports, no one is invincible, and all it takes is the right opponent to burst that bubble of invulnerability.
Interestingly, Usman has a prior victory over the current UFC middleweight champion, Sean Strickland, dating back to 2017. Dana White, the CEO of the UFC, has confirmed that the winner of the Usman vs. Chimaev bout will earn a title shot. While Usman acknowledges Strickland’s skills, he views the potential rematch as an enticing prospect to explore in the future.
“It’s a built-in,” Usman said. “Sean Strickland’s the champion. I’ve already taken care of him. Not to say he’s not better – he is. But I’ve got a mountain in front of me that I need to scale and climb, so we’ll get through that first and then we’ll worry about what’s next.”