In what is being dubbed as a No. 1 contender bout, Chimaev (12-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) meets former welterweight champ Kamaru Usman (20-3 MMA, 15-2 UFC) in Saturday's UFC 294 co-headliner at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on pay-per-view at a special time of 2 p.m. ET following prelims on ESPN+.
Chimaev has trained with Strickland (28-5 MMA, 15-5 UFC) before, but didn't see anything that worried him. He respects Strickland's fighting spirit, but sees himself far superior in all aspects.
“I've taken him down, I've held him down, I've choked him, I've punched him,” Chimaev told MMA Junkie and other reporters through an interpreter at Wednesday's media day. “I've done all those things so I don't see something special about him. Basically he's a fighter's fighter. If you look at him, he's like an American cowboy, like from the movies. That's the kind of guy he is.
“But, we've done our work in the gym together and if they offer him to me, if I can fight him for the belt, that's what I'll do. I make the money, I get the belt, I have nothing against him. I think that if you compare us on a skill level-wise, I'm levels above him. I'm in a whole different stratosphere from him. So, he's not a threat to me, but he's a good guy, a good fighter, and I'm ready to fight anyone.”
Chimaev credits Strickland for presenting Israel Adesanya a different type of challenge in his dominant win over him at UFC 293, and thinks he now provided the blueprint of how to beat “The Stylebender.”
“Actually, I was thinking if Izzy doesn't knock him out, he's going to win,” Chimaev said. “But, he couldn't knock him out first round. I was thinking that guy was pressuring him, pressuring him, and Izzy is going to get tired because all these guys Izzy fought, they play an easy game. Izzy good on his game when he's just doing technique.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie's event hub for UFC 294.