Former UFC and Bellator fighter and MMA analyst Chael Sonnen think that most of the top welterweights are scared to fight Khamzat Chimaev.
The UFC welterweight top 5 is currently jam-packed with elite talents like champ Kamaru Usman, and top contenders Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns, Leon Edwards, and Jorge Masvidal. Unfortunately, the division’s top fighters haven’t been particularly active of late, and Sonnen believes that’s due in part to the arrival of Chimaev.
Sonnen opened up on the situation in the welterweight division on the latest episode of ESPN’s Ariel & The Bad Guy show.
Hey welterweights… Are you guys fighters or not? pic.twitter.com/atoiXjtSum
— Chael Sonnen (@ChaelSonnen) February 18, 2021
“170 pounds has been a little bit baffling right now,” Sonnen said. “[These fighters need to] get up, get to work and get busy. I don’t know what all of these guys are doing. They all got scared of [Khamzat] Chimaev—they don’t want to admit that, but they did.
“Are you guys fighters or not?”
Just last week, UFC president Dana White mentioned the promotion was looking at pairing Edwards with Colby Covington (16-2), a former welterweight title challenger who had also previously been linked to a potential bout against Jorge Masvidal.
Covington immediately made it clear, however, that he wasn’t interested in fighting Edwards, so the UFC moved on. Now, there’s another welterweight contender interested in the Covington matchup: Gilbert Burns, who just came up short in a title bid against Kamaru Usman at UFC 258 last weekend in Las Vegas.
“I believe I’ll be ready to come back in May or June, and I want to be right back in the mix,” Burns told ESPN on Thursday. “The day I fought, I thought the next No. 1 contender fight would be Leon Edwards and Colby Covington, but that is just not happening. … For me, I’ve got [Stephen Thompson] right there, but Colby Covington is the No. 1 guy for me. If they say, ‘Gilbert, who do you want?’ It’s Colby Covington.”
Khamzat Chimaev vs rest of the welterweights
Khamzat, of Sweden, is currently in Las Vegas receiving medical care. His manager, Ali Abdelaziz, told ESPN that they are hopeful he can return by June but that it will be contingent upon his recovery.
Khamzat was the breakout UFC star of summer, 2020. The ‘Borz’ first picked up two wins in 10 days on Fight Island in July, defeating John Phillips by first-round submission at middleweight and Rhys McKee by first-round TKO at welterweight. He then picked up his third win of the season when he knocked out Gerald Meerschaert at middleweight, also in the first round.
While Chimaev is a promising prospect, there are some holes in the argument Sonnen put forth. Leon Edwards, the UFC’s No. 3-ranked welterweight contender, has been scheduled to fight Chimaev three times, withdrawing from the matchup once himself, while Chimaev withdrew the other two times. Based on the fact that he accepted a fight with Chimaev, there’s no arguing that he’s scared of the prospect.
So, while Chael Sonnen believes the UFC’s top welterweights are scared of Chimaev, it’s more likely that they’re just not interested in fighting such an unproven fighter.
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