Chikadze jumped two spots in the 145-pound division following his latest impressive victory last weekend. Against elite striker Edson Barboza in the UFC Vegas 35 main event, “Ninja” showed exactly why he’s so highly touted, and tipped to break into title contention sooner rather than later. A third-round TKO victory over the Brazilian extended Chikadze’s unbeaten promotional record to 7-0.
With three Performance of the Night bonuses in a row, and a successful main event debut last weekend, the Georgian demanded to be moved above Yair Rodriguez in the latest rankings update. The Mexican hasn’t been in action since 2019.
Chikadze’s dismay at Rodriguez’s inactivity built after “El Pantera” turned him down as a short-notice replacement in July. The 33-year-old was keen to face Rodriguez following Max Holloway‘s withdrawal from the 28-year-old’s scheduled return fight.
In an interview with MMA Junkie, Chikadze addressed his new place on the featherweight ladder. Despite jumping Barboza and Dan Ige, “Ninja” was left unimpressed upon release of this week’s update.
“I was hoping to get top three, because in the top three there’s another guy (Yair Rodriguez) who has not fought in all this time since I’m in UFC, and I fought seven times – seven times in less than two years. That’s something that really has to be mentioned. They put me just top eight, so I was a little bit sad.”
Chikadze added that he wants to be fighting the best in the weight class and challenging for the title as soon as possible, which is why his small rank jump was disappointing. Discussing his next target, the Georgian name-dropped Holloway, Rodriguez, and Calvin Kattar as potential opponents.
“I’m just upset (about) the ranking,” Chikadze said. “I want to see myself as one of the top guys because because I want to fight for the title very soon – as fast as possible. I want to be a replacement for the title fight. If not, I want to fight Max or Yair … something that would get me to the title – (‘Korean Zombie’). Or you know what? Even if they gave me Kattar, I wouldn’t be upset.”
The groundwork for a clash with Rodriguez has certainly been laid. Since the Mexican’s victory over Jeremy Stephens at UFC on ESPN 6, Chikadze has built his record up from 1-0 to 7-0. But despite nearly two years of inactivity, “El Pantera” still finds himself sat at #3 in the division, and his original return bout against Holloway shows he hasn’t lost his place within the group of title contenders.
Whether it’s next or later down the line, a meeting inside the Octagon between Rodriguez and Chikadze seems like a high possibility. And given both men’s talent on the feet, it’s likely to be an absolute barn burner.
Do you agree with Giga Chikadze? Should he be ranked above Yair Rodriguez?