Rising prospect Khamzat Chimaev is finally set to return to action at UFC 267, against Li Jingliang. Ahead of this bout, the Chinese fighter is being respectful of his Chechen opponent.
Chimaev may be fighting Jingliang on October 30th, but that was not the original plan for him. After bursting into the UFC was three incredible wins across two divisions, Khamzat was booked against number two ranked Leon Edwards, only to deal with a severe case of COVID-19 that has kept him sidelined for over a year.
Speaking with MiddleEasy, Li said that he was not entirely surprised that Khamzat did not try to fight Leon again. He believes that Khamzat realized how big of a step up this was for him, especially for his return fight, so he thought better of it.
“He has only had three matches in the UFC. I think it was way too big of a step for him to challenge Leon Edwards. So I think he should do things step by step. This is how all the young mixed martial artists should fight,” Jingliang said, via his translator.
Li Jingliang Respects Khamzat Chimaev
Given how much he had been pushed before being sidelined, many people felt that Khamzat Chimaev was being granted favoritism compared to most fighters of his experience level. However Li Jingliang does not agree with that assessment.
He says that because of how well Khamzat performed in his first three UFC outings, he is deserving of the hype. Furthermore, while he realizes that this fight may not move him up in the rankings, Li appreciates that he will have the eyes of many UFC fans on him, when he beats his opponent.
“Because this is an international world, with his effort I think he deserves (the hype),” Jingliang said.
“I might remain the same position (in the rankings), but more people will put attention on me (after this fight)… I know that Chimaev doesn’t have a rank right now. I might move up one spot or maybe not, I’m not sure. But all the fans of the organization will witness this. So I’m not sure yet, but I know people will start to recognize me.”
As far as the stylistic matchup itself, Li Jingliang feels like this is the classic case of grappler against striker. He says that his goal is to try to knock out Khamzat, and that he knows Khamzat will be looking to take him down.
“We know that he’s more of a grappler, and I’m a striker, but this is mixed marital arts, anything can happen. People know that Chimaev will take me down and I will try to knock him out. But this is MMA. Anything can happen in MMA,” he said.
“There are two options. The fight might go to a decision, or we maybe finish each other. But I think (it’s more likely) to be a finish,” Jingliang added.
Li Jingliang takes on Khamzat Chimaev on October 30th, at UFC 267. It will be interesting to see if he can spoil the party of this red hot welterweight prospect.