This weekend in the co-main event of UFC 294, we are going to see an absolutely huge matchup in the middleweight division. A title shot at 185 is on the line as former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (20-3) is stepping in on less than two weeks’ notice to take on the undefeated Khamzat Chimaev (12-0).
Chimaev was originally supposed to face Paulo Costa. However, after Costa suffered a nasty infection in his elbow, he was forced to pull out of the fight. The UFC called Usman and he was willing to take the fight on short notice. The former welterweight champion told TMZ this week that this is the fight that was always supposed to happen.
The promotion wanted Usman and Chimaev originally to fight at 170 with the winner getting a title shot. However, after it became clear that Chimaev wouldn’t be able to make 170 reliably, the plan changed and Chimaev moved up. Usman was left in limbo, but now the former UFC champion has a unique opportunity in front of him.
Future UFC Double Champ?
Kamaru Usman will get a middleweight title shot should he defy the odds and defeated Chimaev this weekend. It’s a position that Usman never thought he’d be in. Usman is incredibly close with fellow Nigerian Israel Adesanya and while Adesanya was running the middleweight division, Usman never thought of moving up to challenge for that title.
However, with Adesanya losing to Sean Strickland, the door is open for Usman and the former welterweight champion has history there. Usman and Strickland fought at welterweight in a fight that Usman completely dominated. It would be fascinating to see these two scrap again for the middleweight title.
Usman spoke to the media today ahead of UFC 294 and laid out his ideal end to his career. If he could draw it up, Usman would love to defeat Chimaev and Strickland to become middleweight champion. As soon as he’d achieve that, he’d love to go back to 170 and try to reclaim that title before riding off into the sunset.
At 36-years-old and with all the miles he has on his body, Usman knows he’s not going to be fighting for a very long time. He wants to capitalize now and he’s in a very unique opportunity to do something special. However, he has a massively tall order in front of him on Saturday. The odds are against him, but his dream scenario starts with Khamzat Chimaev on Saturday. You can see his full pre-fight media press conference below.