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Khamzat Chimaev more than lived up to the hype at UFC Fight Night 178.
The Allstars Training Center representative made short work of Gerald Meerschaert, knocking his opponent out with a right cross just 17 seconds into their featured middleweight encounter at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday night. After using his grappling to dominate John Phillips and Rhys McKee in his first two promotional appearances, Chimaev was pleased to showcase a different element to his game. The 26-year-old’s first two performances had drawn comparisons to reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, but Chimaev wants the world to know he is more than that.
“Everybody says, ‘You’re Khabib. Khabib No. 2,’ something like that. But I am Khamzat,” he told media following his victory. “I can knock out people, submit the people, smash the people, everything. I have everything.”
Heading into UFC Fight Night 178, Chimaev was already booked two bouts ahead, with a showdown against veteran jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia looming in October. That presumptive scheduling drew its share of criticism, but against Meerschaert, Chimaev displayed why promotion officials have such high expectations for him.
“The guy’s special. I’ve been in this game my whole life, I’ve never seen anything like him. He’s special, he’s different and he wants to fight again,” UFC president Dana White said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “I’ve never been in a position where I’m like, ‘Who’s next? How do we get him a fight? How do we get him over here, how do we get him over there? How do we do this, how do we do that?’
“It’s fun and I like it and I think when you’re a fight fan a guy like this is who you love to watch and follow and hate and whatever it might be. This guy is one of the most special fighters I’ve ever seen, if not the most special guy that I’ve ever come across.”
At this point, it’s no guarantee that Chimaev will face Maia next despite the original plans in place.
“I don’t know what I do with him yet,” White said. “He might fight before Maia and fight Maia, too. Maia’s not going to be ready in time for this kid.”
As for Chimaev, he plans on continuing to do what he does best. The praise and adulation is simply a byproduct of that work.
“If you win and fight like that, everybody loves you,” he said. “I’ve got to keep going and smash people. I never have pressure before the fights. I’ve done this all my life. Now I am a professional fighter.”