You can sign up for a free seven-day trial of ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream UFC on ESPN+ live on your computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.
Michael Chiesa wasn’t on the UFC 234 media day itinerary, but “Maverick” -- who flew to Melbourne to support teammate Austin Arnett -- was happy to spend some time with Sherdog.com and talk about his adventures both in and outside the Octagon.
“It’s my second time in Australia, first time in Melbourne” Chiesa said of his trip ‘Down Under’. “I’m super excited to be here, it’s got a good feel to it. It kinds of feels like I’m in Calgary, it’s got kind of the same vibe. I was there in the summer. It’s nice to be here.”
Having successfully moved up from lightweight to welterweight, and snagging an impressive win over former interim champion Carlos Condit in his 170-pound debut in December, Chiesa spoke enthusiastically about his new haunt, and when he’s hoping to get back in the cage.
“170’s my home for sure” he said. “There’s no way I’ll ever go back to . I knew the move was coming, and I knew it would come after the Pettis fight. But realistically, in my head, I was like ‘I’m gonna win this fight, and then go up.’ A lot of people make those kinds of moves after a loss. But in this sport, things don’t always go according to plan. It just feels good to make that move. Y’know it was a little scary at first, it’s a lot of unknown territory. But I’m glad that it happened.”
“I think you’ll see me around May or June” he continued. “I have a little injury I have to take care of from the [Condit] fight. I don’t want to say too much about it, but I should be back around May or June.”
Having recently characterised the lightweight division as a ‘clusterf--k,’ Chiesa isn’t concerned about the logjam of Tyron Woodley, Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington at 170. In fact, in his mind, things should resolve themselves just in time for him climb the ladder and get a shot at the strap himself.
“The key to moving up the ranks is just fighting the right guys” he said. “It’s not always about fighting the guy with the highest ranking. It’s looking for relevance, youth, the number. There’s a lot of moving parts to it, [but] I still think it’s a way clearer path than 155. Now [Khabib Nurmagomedov] just did an interview and said ‘go do an interim title, I’m going to sit out for a while.’ It’s like, here we go again.”
“It’s a much clearer path at 170,” he said. “By the time I get to fight for the title at 170, which I know is going to happen, things will be sorted out, and there will be a clear spot for me. Usman and Tyron will have fought; the thing with Colby will be sorted out. It’ll be just in time for me to get there.”
One topic that Chiesa was careful to steer clear of was his ongoing lawsuit against former lightweight champion Conor McGregor, for the infamous bus incident that occurred in April last year and ostensibly robbed “Maverick” of a late-replacement shot at the lightweight title. He did however say that he’s not letting the proceedings become a distraction to his career inside the Octagon, and how he’s been able to insulate himself from the fan backlash.
“[My legal team] just keep me [updated on the case] on a need-to-know basis,” he said. “I keep myself separated from it, as it takes a lot of focus away from what’s important, and that’s my career.”
“I don’t really post things about my Mom or my girlfriend anymore”, he continued. “Because the last thing they need is to get backlash sent their way. I’d rather have it all just directed at me… It’s hard not to give in to temptation and message these people who talk crap to you over the internet. It takes away from the people that support you. I just try to focus on people that support my career, and ‘block out the haters’ as they say.”
Before he departs, there’s one last question: who is Chiesa picking to walk away with the welterweight title at UFC 235 next month?
8 “I gave up on doubting Tyron Woodley a long time ago,” he said. “Especially after the Darren Till fight. I’m gonna have to go with the champ on this one, but Marty from Nebraska is a bad mo’fo. I take that back… Kamaru Usman. Super good guy. I’m just hoping that him and Askren [get to fight]. This fight between Woodley and Usman is huge and exciting and has fireworks written all over it, but I just keep forgetting [about it] because I’m focused on Ben and Kamaru. That’s the fight that’s gotta happen.”