Gilbert Burns, who is currently ranked #2 in the UFC’s welterweight division, looks to secure another shot at welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Standing in his way is the #11 ranked contender, Khamzat Chimaev, who looks to jump the line and earn his first opportunity for UFC gold.
First rumoured in November, it now looks like both parties have agreed to the fight and to the date. In a screenshot shared by Chimaev, both fighters settled on April 9 for the showdown. While no card has been announced for that date, it will likely be UFC 273.
All Aboard the Hype Train
Khamzat Chimaev (10-0, 4-0 UFC) burst into the UFC in July 2020, defeating John Phillips via submission in a dominant performance. Just ten days later, Chimaev stepped into the octagon on short notice and got his second victory, this time by technical knockout. In his third outing, it only took 17 seconds for him to put away Gerald Meerschaert, this time at middleweight.
The Chimaev hype train was slightly delayed as “Borz” suffered a long bout with COVID-19. At one point, he contemplated retirement from combat sports due to the long term effects of the virus. Luckily for Chimaev and the fans, he made a full recovery and returned at UFC 267, defeating Li Jingliang in round one. It was like he never left. Most recently, Chimaev competed in a wrestling match in Gothenburg, Sweden, against fellow UFC fighter Jack Hermansson. Chimaev won the match 8-0.
Speculation immediately began as to who would be next for Chimaev. Names including Nick Diaz, Vicente Luque and Neil Magny were being thrown around as potential opponents. Some within the MMA community were calling for Chimaev vs Usman, though UFC President Dana White squashed that possibility. “He’s a couple of fights away. If he can beat a couple of guys in the top 10, top five, then we’ll see.” Should Chimaev earn a victory over the #2 ranked contender, it may be hard to deny him a shot at the “Nigerian Nightmare.”
“I Want to Fight”
Gilbert Burns (20-4, 13-4 UFC) rattled off six straight victories on his path to a UFC title fight with reigning champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 258. Though he came up short in his title bid, Burns has maintained top contender status with a unanimous decision victory over Stephen Thompson at UFC 264 in July.
Despite his recent comments that fighting Chimaev “doesn’t make sense,” Burns is eager to step back into the octagon. Speaking on an episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, Burns elaborated. “I don’t think I’ll fight him while he’s ranked at number ten,” Burns said. “I think he’ll fight one more time and, winning against a top 5 or top six, getting closer to the top five, I’d fight him, no problem at all. Top ten, I wouldn’t fight. But that’s me fighting against myself. Top ten doesn’t make sense, but I want to fight, so it’s complicated.”
Despite believing a fight with Chimaev is premature, Burns admitted that he would have a hard time turning down the opportunity to get back in the cage. “I want to fight so bad, it would be hard for me to say no to a fight,” said Burns.
Burns will be the toughest test for Khamzat as of yet. As a decorated jiu-jitsu practitioner and a three-time IBJJF World Champion, Burns stays active in grappling competitions, holding victories over fellow grapplers Yves Edwards, Gleison Tibau and Jake Shields.
The UFC has made no official announcement at this time. No announcements regarding the event, including title, location and venue, have been announced.
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