'I will be pound-for-pound no. 1': Russian-born Khamzat Chimaev talks title ambitions as he eyes UFC history on Fight Island
Chimaev announced himself to the UFC octagon in impressive fashion earlier this month, submitting British fighter John Phillips in the second round of their middleweight bout at UFC Fight Night 172 to extend his unbeaten record to seven contests.
Not content with that, the Sweden-based Chimaev agreed to take a second bout on Yas Island, against Belfast fighter Rhys McKee, with just a 10-day turnaround.Also on rt.com Khamzat Chimaev: Meet the Chechen-born grappler who earned the moniker 'KhaBIG' after DOMINANT UFC debut
This time dropping down to welterweight, a win for Chimaev against UFC debutant McKee would set a record for the shortest period between wins in the modern-era of the world's biggest MMA promotion.
Speaking to RT Sport on Fight Island ahead of the bout, Chimaev discussed his roots in Chechnya and his journey to training with UFC star Alexander Gustafsson in Sweden – and how he is plotting total domination in the coming years.
“All my life I did wrestling, I started when I was a kid, like 5 years old. Then three years ago, I was in the Allstars (gym in Stockholm),” Chimaev said of his start in MMA.
“My manager came to me and said, ‘Do you want to stay here? I see something special with you, you’re going to be a good fighter’. I said, ‘Yes, why not?’ Then I started, and now after three years I’m in the UFC, making history.”
Chimaev made the move to Sweden at the age of 19, and now aged 26 he is benefitting from training with the likes of Gustafsson, who himself returns to the octagon for a heavyweight contest with Fabricio Werdum this weekend.
“I do sparring with these guys (Alexander Gustafsson) every day… It’s easy to me to go fight in the cage (at) 77-84 kilos, after these guys, top guys in 93 (kg), heavyweights, helping me,” said Chimaev.
Gustafsson has been among those to tip his sparring partner for major success in the UFC – something Chimaev says provides extra motivation.
“Of course it’s motivation for me, seeing him every day with me, training with me… he did history in the UFC, he and Jon Jones, the best fight, I’ve never seen (anything) like this fight. I’m just happy because he trains with me. One legend, to train with a legend, what can I say? It’s amazing.”
Chimaev bears the nickname ‘Borz’, which translates as ‘wolf’ in his native Chechen, although some have also compared him to a bigger version of Dagestani grappling sensation and current 155lbs UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Chimaev revealed that ultimately his moniker did not matter, so long as he makes his way to the head of the pound-for-pound pack.
“‘Borz’ in Chechnya, it means ‘wolf’. My brother always told me, ‘Go fight with him, go fight with him’. Kids outside on the street. He said, ‘You are Borz, let’s go fight’. It comes from my brother,” Chimaev said.
“People can say what they want, for me it doesn’t matter. I’m Khamzat Chimaev. I’m going to be champion, I’m going to be number one pound-for-pound and everyone’s going to talk about me.”
Chimaev’s debut victory in the UFC octagon was accompanied by a callout of fellow welterweight Mike Perry, who recently made headlines for actions outside the cage when he struck an elderly man in a confrontation at a Texas restaurant.
Chimaev said the callout stemmed from those actions and a lack of respect from Perry – a characteristic he also accused Irish star Conor McGregor of lacking.Also on rt.com UFC fighter Mike Perry 'to seek help for alcohol abuse, behavior problems' after knocking out elderly man in restaurant (VIDEO)
“(I called out Perry) because I saw he hit one old man. In my country, in Russia, if you hit an old man somebody will go to you and see this, they’re going to start to hit you,” Chimaev said.
“It’s not respect. If he punches my father… I go to kill him, you know. I don’t like this guy. Conor (McGregor) did this also. I don’t like that.”
As softly-spoken as he is, Chimaev is not a man lacking ambition or confidence, asserting that fans are witnessing the start of something special with his performances in two weight classes on Fight Island.
“For me it doesn’t matter, 84, 77 (kg), if I can make 70 also, we’ll see in future. But now I know I can beat the 77 champion, the 84 champion. I’m ready for them,” he said.
When asked where he sees himself in two years, Chimaev replied succinctly and without hesitation: “Champion. 100% champion.”