Filmmaker Youcef Hollywood spent some time filming Strickland whilst he trained at the Xtreme Couture gym in Las Vegas. Also attending the session, which was seemingly ran by “Tarzan,” was a pair of UFC peers who have formed an unlikely bond in 2022, Darren Till and Chimaev.
This week, one part of the documented session drew attention. In it, Strickland addresses the training mindset of “Borz,” who has quickly risen into title contention at 170 pounds.
“Have you sparred him? He gets a little bit (raises hand). A little bit,” Strickland said. “Be nice. Khamzat, understand you’re better than most of — you’re better than everybody, so just don’t hurt people.”
Later in the isolated clip, which was uploaded to YouTube by The Mac Life, Chimaev appears to take down his partner during the warmup, invoking a cry of, “Who shoots during warmups?”
After a brief pause, Strickland returns to position with Till, telling his fellow middleweight that Chimaev “just goes too hard, man.”
Strickland On Chimaev Clip: ‘My Guys Aren’t Punching Bags’
During a recent interview with The Schmo, Strickland was asked about the clip, which has spread across the MMA community since its release.
Similar to his own attitude when he arrives at a new gym, Strickland described Chimaev as a “dog with a bone.” With that in mind, the Californian suggested that his attempts to bring the Chechen-born Swede’s level down a notch was more of a pre-emptive move as he prepared to spar a lighter and less experienced athlete.
After noting that he’ll always defend his partners and teammates, who he insisted weren’t “punching bags” for guest athletes, Strickland did praise Chimaev for listening and showing respect to the fighters he trained alongside in Las Vegas.
“So I am a c*nt you guys. When I walk into someone’s gym, I will try to murder everybody unless somebody tells me not to. Chimaev is like a f*cking dog with a bone,” Strickland said. “He spars, he trains, and there’s a f*cking target on their backs. He was sparring with my buddy, a ’55er who moved up to 70, lower-level pro. I was just telling Chimaev, ‘I understand you like to f*cking smash, but if you wanna spar him, you gotta respect him. He’s here to help you. He’s not at your level.’
“Chimaev was solid about, he understood and had good sparring. But you know what, when it comes to my f*cking guys, they’re not gonna be used as f*cking punching bags. If you wanna come use someone as a punching bag, go f*cking spar Francis (Ngannou),” Strickland added. “Chimaev, he was solid, he was respectful.”
Strickland’s careful and sensible approach to training could come across as surprising for those who have only seen his controversial comments — namely, his publicized desire to kill someone inside the cage. But given past training incidents, it perhaps should be expected.
Last year, Strickland was involved in altercation with jiu-jitsu black belt and former ADCC gold medalist Orlando Sanchez. The UFC middleweight took issue when “The Cuban Tree Stump” appeared to crank his arm at the elbow after Strickland secured an underhook.
While he may appear slightly unhinged in interviews and on social media, safety is seemingly still on the mind of Strickland within the gym walls.
What do you make of Sean Strickland’s pre-sparring words to Khamzat Chimaev?