UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland says he’ll grant Khamzat Chimaev a title shot, but he doesn’t think Chimaev has earned the opportunity.
“Doesn’t f—–g deserve it,” Strickland said Saturday on UFC Fight Pass. “But here we are. Give it to him. … I’ll go f—–g fight the man for five rounds. But no, he has not earned it, he doesn’t f—–g deserve it, and getting a decision with a welterweight off a couch is not f—–g earning it.”
Chimaev earned the biggest win of his career at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, defeating former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman by majority decision to remain undefeated. But the optics of the victory were not overly impressive. Usman stepped in on 10 days’ notice, was coming off back-to-back losses, and was making his middleweight debut. And Usman, who is used to competing in five-round fights, seemed to come on strong late.
UFC president Dana White labeled Chimaev-Usman as a title eliminator ahead of the event, and he said afterward he still intends to book Strickland-Chimaev next.
Chimaev fought at 185 pounds for the first time since 2020. He was originally scheduled to face Paulo Costa, who withdrew early last week due to injury. As such, Chimaev still does not have a win over a ranked middleweight. (Usman is No. 1 in the welterweight division.)
No. 1-ranked middleweight contender Dricus Du Plessis, on the other hand, is coming off an upset knockout win over former 185-pound champ Robert Whittaker in July.
“The only thing I like about Chimaev is he sells fights,” Strickland said. “For some reason, people f—–g like him or don’t like him. I don’t know. To me, he’s a f—–g paycheck. He sells a lot of fights. People pay to watch.”
Strickland, who has yet to defend the middleweight belt, became champion after a massive upset of Israel Adesanya at UFC 293 in September.