Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Sonnen Suggests Covington Won’t Accept Chimaev Fight

Chael Sonnen doesn’t believe welterweight star Colby Covington will accept a much-discussed fight against rising contender Khamzat Chimaev.

At UFC 273 earlier this month, Chimaev cemented his status as a legitimate contender at 170 pounds. Having breezed past John Phillips, Rhys McKee, Gerald Meerschaert, and Li Jingliang, “Borz” was presented with a steep increase in competition at the April 9 pay-per-view.

Against Gilbert Burns, a former title challenger and then-#2 contender, Chimaev was pushed to the limit in a memorable war. Despite some adversity, the Chechen-born Swede earned a victory on the scorecards, securing an eight-place rise to #3 on the welterweight ladder.

With his fifth triumph in the Octagon, it appeared Chimaev had set up a collision with top contender Colby Covington. Prior to the event, UFC President Dana White suggested that the victor of the UFC 273 bout between “Borz” and “Durinho” would likely meet “Chaos” in the main event of the next ABC card.

While Chimaev has appeared more than willing to share the cage with the former interim champion, there’s been no response from Covington. According to former two-division title challenger Sonnen, that’s for good reason.

During a recent video uploaded to his YouTube channel, the 45-year-old MMA analyst doubted the chances of Covington accepting a fight in which his opponent could secure a title shot while he couldn’t.

“I don’t think they have that match. I don’t think they’ve ever had that match (done). I don’t even think they’ve spoken to Colby about the match,” said Sonnen. “Dana just said, ‘This is the direction we’re going.’ It was meant to be a compliment to Colby. Dana was trying to say, ‘Covington, who’s a star, I’m going to take my star and I’m gonna put him in the main event. Whoever wins between Burns and Chimaev is going to feed into that main event.’ It was meant to be something very sweet for Colby.

“I was just predicting, much like Belal (Muhammad), that’s not how Colby’s hearing it. That’s not how Colby wants to get this done,” Sonnen continued. “I also wasn’t sold on the idea that the organization was willing to make that a number one contender’s match…

“My gut feeling is that the organization would lean towards the idea that if Chimaev wins, Chimaev would fight for the championship. Knowing Colby the way I do, that’s going to insult him, and it’s just not going to work.”

Sonnen & Muhammad On The Same Page With Covington

With that view in mind, Sonnen credited Belal Muhammad for inserting himself in the picture following his victory over Vicente Luque at UFC Vegas 51. The former middleweight and light heavyweight believes a title eliminator between “Remember The Name” and Chimaev is much more likely.

“In his last moments on the worldwide leader, with the biggest audience he’s going to have, that he wants to influence, he inserts himself in a fight that’s already done. That’s what we were led to believe,” said Sonnen. “Now, all of a sudden, Belal came out… He just came out and said, ‘I think I’m going to be fighting Chimaev next. I don’t think Colby is going to do that match.’ I think he’s right.

“I think Belal is going to get that fight. And now, all of a sudden, it does become a number one contender’s match for both guys. I can see that, it’s very different,” added Sonnen. “As much as you would like to see Chimaev vs. Colby… If it becomes Chimaev vs. Muhammad, that means it’s gonna become Colby vs. Burns. You got any problem with those matchups?”

In the April 16 UFC Fight Night main event, Muhammad extended his unbeaten streak to eight by avenging a past loss to Luque. With the win, the Chicago native has firmly placed himself in the championship conversation.

If Sonnen’s prediction comes true, Muhammad could well have the chance to secure his first title shot by sharing the cage with Chimaev in the next ABC headliner.

Do you agree with Chael Sonnen? Is Colby Covington unlikely to accept a fight against Khamzat Chimaev?

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