Khamzat Chimaev plots July return, but potential opponent Neil Magny may not wait


Khamzat Chimaev | Zuffa LLC

Highly touted UFC welterweight Khamzat Chimaev won’t retire; instead, he’s plotting a return to action later this year.

The 26-year-old Chechen fighter, who took the world by storm in 2020 when he rattled off three straight wins after joining the UFC roster, has been out of action for several months after contracting COVID-19 and wrestling with long-term symptoms. After he was forced out of two different dates for a fight against top-five ranked welterweight Leon Edwards, he hinted at walking away from the sport for good as he struggled to recover from the deadly disease.

Now with his health improving, Chimaev’s manager Ali Abdelaziz confirmed via text message to MMA Fighting that he’s currently targeting July for his next fight in the UFC. ESPN first reported Chimaev’s plan to return.

“I think a lot of us don’t truly know what these young fighters go through,” Abdelaziz told ESPN. “It’s impossible to live inside their heads and inside their bodies, and sometimes they say things out of frustration or they are just mad they can’t do what they love to do. Khamzat has been doing this all his life, so he’s almost felt crippled not being able to train, but he’s healthy now and he’s going to start training.

“I was talking to him this week and he even said he’s going to be swimming with alligators and sharks, and doing movement with these creatures, as part of a special training program.”

Chimaev hinted at his return earlier this week, writing on social media, “Surprise, surprise, I’m coming back to smash everybody!”

With plans to get back into full training in April and then take a fight in July, Chimaev and his team have targeted fellow welterweight contender Neil Magny as his next opponent.

The welterweights have gone back and forth via social media and through various interviews. Chimaev has struggled to find opponents willing to face him, and Magny immediately offered to take on the undefeated prospect. The question now is about timing.

Ultimately, Chimaev’s health issues have kept him sidelined since his previous win in September 2020. While Magny is definitely still game, he’s not so sure he wants to sit out until July.

“I will fight him any day of the week,” Magny said in a text message sent to MMA Fighting on Wednesday. “But there’s no way I’m putting my career on hold so that he could hopefully fight me come July.

“He needs to focus on getting healthy first. The ass-whooping he’s been asking for is long overdue, and is waiting on him.”

It remains to be seen if the UFC will try to book Chimaev against Magny or wait until there’s additional information on his health once he gets back into training in April.

For now, Chimaev seems ready to get back in action as one of the most hyped fighters to come out of the pandemic era as the UFC plots his return later this year.

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