While Whittaker, a former champion at 185 pounds, has been a mainstay in the Octagon since 2012, Chimaev only debuted in 2020. But despite a short stay on MMA’s biggest stage, “Borz” has already cemented himself as a welterweight title contender and one of the fastest-developing stars in the promotion.
Having established his name with a pair of dominant performances against John Phillips and Rhys McKee, as well as a 17-second Knockout win against Gerald Meerschaert at middleweight, Chimaev’s surge to the top picked up last October with success against ranked 170lber Li Jingliang.
After entering the top 15, Chimaev was granted the toughest test of his career to date against former title challenger Gilbert Burns. In a UFC 273 contest that will undoubtedly be present in Fight of the Year discussions come the end of 2022, the Chechen-born Swede secured a narrow decision win on the scorecards.
Having leapt into the welterweight top five, Chimaev has his sights set on champion Kamaru Usman. But the up-and-comer’s title aspirations don’t stop there.
Chimaev, who has shown his ability to compete at middleweight, both in the UFC and prior to joining the promotion, is hoping to secure champ-champ status inside the Octagon. To accomplish that, he may well have to go through Robert Whittaker.
Whittaker: Chimaev Is A “Tough Guy”
Despite suffering two defeats to reigning titleholder Israel Adesanya, “The Reaper” has firmly established himself as the second-best man in the division. And given how close his rematch with “The Last Stylebender” was earlier this year, it stands to reason that a victory over Marvin Vettori later this year could set him up for a trilogy with Adesanya sooner rather than later.
If things go to plan for the Australian, he’ll be sitting on the top step of the division by the time Chimaev looks to challenge for the gold. And while facing “Borz” looks to be a daunting task for anybody, Whittaker believes that his past experiences against elite and powerful wrestlers would come in handy if they were to share the cage.
“It would be tricky. Like, I’d have to be firing those kicks down the middle like you would not believe,” said Whittaker during a UFC fan Q&A in Singapore last week. “I don’t think my right foot would touch the mat, you know? He’s a tough guy. I’ve fought wrestlers before though. I’ve fought Yoel Romero, he’s a silver medalist. Granted, he’s not (got) that type of grappling game, but I guess that’s something I really haven’t thought about. I’d have to try and digest when we get there.”
For now, both men have their sights set elsewhere. While Whittaker is preparing for his re-arranged clash with “The Italian Dream” in Paris later this year, Chimaev is seemingly open to whoever, having expressed interest in facing lower-ranked contender Belal Muhammad and the unranked fan favorite Nate Diaz.
Nevertheless, it certainly isn’t far-fetched to imagine that the pair’s paths may cross down the line.
How do you think a fight between Robert Whittaker and Khamzat Chimaev would play out?