Kamaru Usman thinks Khamzat Chimaev got ‘caught up’ in own hype before UFC 273, ‘absolutely’ sees holes in his game


Kamaru Usman isn’t losing any sleep over the threat of Khamzat Chimaev.

The UFC welterweight champion was one of many people who watched the chaos that unfolded at UFC 273 when Chimaev took a unanimous decision over one-time title challenger Gilbert Burns in one of the wildest fights of 2022. Chimaev entered the bout as arguably the most hyped prospect to hit the 170-pound division in a long time, and though he didn’t run through Burns in the same way he ran through his first four UFC opponents, he still came away with a quality win over a top contender.

But the No. 1 welterweight in the world wasn’t exactly blown away.

“It was a very, very good fight,” Usman told TMZ. I think that both men came prepared and that the fight was a good example of that. Gilbert Burns was disrespected by a lot people, I believe. It’s amazing to see a young man like him come in with all the hype and everybody talking about him.

“[But the hype] was very disrespectful to a guy like Gilbert Burns, who has put in the years, who has put in the time, has fought all these guys to get up here at the top of this division, and now you’re just kind of dismissing him. To be fair, there were only minor adjustments from Gilbert Burns. I believe that the fight was very, very winnable. I also think he realizes that .”

Chimaev rode into the Burns matchup on the heels of a historic start to his UFC career, one that saw him sustain just one significant strike over his first four octagon bouts. Chimaev was the betting favourite in an hypothetical bout against Usman because of the hype surrounding him before the fight.

But that hype train slowed down, if only a hair, after Burns landed 119 significant strikes on Chimaev in a blood-and-guts affair.

Chimaev has lost his lead as the favorite to beat Usman. The UFC’s reigning welterweight champion said that he can see opportunities in the undefeated Chechen game.

“Absolutely, and that’s what I’m supposed to do,” Usman said. That’s what I do. That’s just how I roll, that’s just what I do.

“I dissect each and every situation all the time, and I definitely did in that fight. There were many things that I had known were there all along. Just because the people didn’t see it and the people didn’t know it, because he had only been touched one time, that doesn’t mean they weren’t present. They were definitely still there. They were definitely still there.

Burns is now the only man to have faced both Usman and Chimaev. Leaning on that knowledge, he noted after UFC 273 that he believes Usman will win if the two ever fight.

To that, Usman can’t disagree.

“I mean, he said it,” Usman said. “Let’s just be honest, styles make fights — and I’ve always said, what sets me apart is my brain, my intelligence. This is what separates me from many other guys. Gilbert is an extremely, very strong fighter and he proved it. He still has a lot left, he’s not done, and he’s still at the top of this division. And Khamzat coming in, he’s definitely showed — he’s done a great job. He’s done an excellent job with the information he was given and against all odds. He is my hero.

” I think it was beginning to look like that was happening .”

All the chatter about Chimaev must wait.

For now, Usman’s focus is solely on his next step. The No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport is expected to rematch Leon Edwards for his next UFC title defense, likely some time in the summer. Though he’s still recovering from an injured hand, Usman said he’s scheduled to see a doctor at the beginning of May who could give him a clean bill of health. He’ll soon be able to get back on the road in preparation for the Edwards match.

And if Chimaev is the next man in line after that? Well, that’s just fine with Usman.

“He’s gone out there and he’s beat the No. 2 guy in the division,” Usman said. He got the “W”, so it is very hard for me to say that he does not deserve anything. That’s it. If it’s not, that’s the fight. Right now, we’ve kind of got Leon Edwards sitting there. The other little loudmouth, who is his name? He’s the Irish boy, or the Irish man. You also have the Irish guy [Conor McGregor] running his mouth.

“You forget [about him], but this is why you forget — you forget because this guy is not relevant. He hasn’t done anything in this sport as of late. He must try and attach his name with someone relevant in order to make himself relevant,” Usman said.

“But [Chimaev] did a great job getting out there and beating the No. 2 guy in the division. So yeah, if that’s the next fight after Edwards, then that’s the next fight. But Edwards is our focus right now.”