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20 Jul, 2020 17:07

Khamzat Chimaev: Meet the Chechen-born grappler who earned the moniker 'KhaBIG' after DOMINANT UFC debut

Khamzat Chimaev: Meet the Chechen-born grappler who earned the moniker 'KhaBIG' after DOMINANT UFC debut

It might be unfamiliar for now but the name Khamzat Chimaev could soon be on the lips of fight fans the world over after he drew comparisons to Khabib Nurmagomedov following his dominating UFC debut on 'Fight Island' last weekend.

The 26-year-old Chimaev, who is now based in Sweden after emigrating from Chechnya several years ago, was flawless in a thorough shellacking of experienced striker John Phillips in Abu Dhabi.

So impressive was his debut in the UFC's middleweight division that his suffocating style of grappling and top control caused some fight fans to compare Chimaev to the UFC's most famous Russian export, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

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"Khabig," as some have taken to calling him, will carve out his own piece of UFC history this coming Saturday when he will become the only fighter to compete twice during the promotion's sequence of events in "Fight Island," where he will drop to welterweight to fight the debuting Cage Warriors standout, Rhys McKee. 

But who exactly is the undefeated grappler tipped to make waves in the UFC's 170-pound division?

Chimaev emigrated to Sweden in 2011, first to the city of Malmo before moving to Lidkopings and eventually settling in Kalmar. Despite uprooting his life, the then-17 year old was keen to ensure that he could continue the high-level grappling training he had already received in his native country. 

Indeed, Chimaev has lived a life of competition. His path in life was set early; he was just a year old when he first laid on a wrestling mat and by the time he was five years old he had begun his own training - conveniently living just across the street from a wrestling club.

His talent quickly shone, and developed even further in adopted country. In 2018 he stormed to gold in the Swedish championship in both the welterweight and middleweight divisions, even winning one of those gold medals without dropping a single point throughout the tournament. 

Chimaev soon turned his attention to mixed martial arts, winning his first two fights in May and August of 2018. Now with the famous Allstars gym, he soon booked his entry to the UFC after run in the Bahrain-based Brave CF promotion between 2018 and 2019 where he won finished all four of his fights inside the distance (two knockouts; two submissions).

His talent has already been recognized by some of Swedish MMA's biggest names. Multiple-time world title contender Alexander Gustafsson said of Chimaev that he had "never trained with such a good guy before," while another of the country's UFC veterans, Reza Madadi, recognized the Chechen's potential early and has cornered Chimaev on several occasions.

Now, just two years after his professional debut, he finds himself as a hot prospect in one of the most talent-rich weight categories in the UFC.

His second test in the UFC will come just 10 days after his first, after it was confirmed that Chimaev will face McKee on the final "Fight Island" card this weekend. The fight was a response to his plea to the UFC matchmakers for another Abu Dhabi fight following his victory over Phillips. 

McKee, who is a noted prospect in his own right, will present a different type of challenge to Phillips in that he has a more robust submission game at his disposal when he gets taken to the canvas. He also offers a different style of striking, with the Northern Irishman preferring to throw straight punches and work behind his jab, rather than the Welsh middleweight's hook-heavy boxing game.

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Chimaev, though, will look to underscore his win against Phillips with another dominant performance against the dangerous McKee - and will hope to add a second win in less than two weeks to his record. 

And if the rest of the UFC's welterweight roster hadn't heard his name before last weekend, you can bet that most of them will sit up and take notice after next weekend. There is a new threat in town in the welterweight division, and his name is Khamzat Chimaev.