• Andrew Starc

All you need to know about UFC rising star Khamzat Chimaev

Khamzat Chimaev is a different breed of UFC fighter.


In 2020, the Chechen-born Swede burst onto the scene from nowhere, becoming the break-out star of Fight Island.


Not only is Khamzat the fastest ever to achieve three UFC wins, taking just 66 days. He did so with overwhelming dominance and brutality, across two weight classes.


If his first two victories – achieved within 10 days – weren't enough to convince fans of his talent, his third certainly did. Borz spectacularly knocked out 44-fight veteran Gerald Meerschaert with the only strike of the fight, announcing himself as a legitimate contender.


The eye-opening performance saw UFC President Dana White call Chimaev “one of the most special fighters I've ever seen, if not the most special guy that I've ever come across."


A star, the likes of which not seen since the rise of Conor McGregor, was born.



The man who wants to 'smash everybody'


Just three months after his UFC debut, Khamzat's Instagram followers surged from practically zero to over a million, soundly eclipsing the likes of Colby Covington.


It seems it's not just his blistering UFC performances drawing legions of fans and a frenzy of media attention.


Chimaev's uniquely unaffected personality – one that combines soft-spoken amiability, supreme confidence, and the brooding energy of a serial killer – is bizarrely endearing and media-friendly. He's the kind of guy who'd threaten to kill you while smiling warmly and calling you 'brother.'


Khamzat's genuine willingness to throw down with anyone, anywhere, at any time, makes him unlike many on the UFC roster. He's declared a desire to “fight three times in one night” and even called out Brock Lesnar.



In media interviews the Swede comes across as some half-crazed, yet good-natured savage. Little concerned with public image, he seems driven only by a monomaniacal lust to fight anything with a heat signature.


Khamzat deals with questions – those that typically draw long-winded answers from most fighters – in refreshingly simple, boilerplate style. Who will he fight next? And When? What do you think of Israel Adesanya?


His response is almost always some variation of:


"Doesn’t matter, I'm gonna smash everybody."

So who is Khamzat Chimaev? Let's take a look at some of the internet's most searched questions about this recently unknown, now meteoric UFC star.


Where is Khamzat Chimaev from?


Chimaev was born on 1 May 1994, in Chechnya, a small Russian Republic located in the North Caucasus, bordering Khabib Nurmagomedov's birthplace of Dagestan. For much of the past 30 years, the nation has been gripped by religious violence, which escalated in the 90's with an invasion by the Russian military.


In an interview with Swedish podcast Fighter, Khamzat said he grew up in a "fight or be beaten" environment, where like most kids, he began freestyle wrestling at a young age. Competing at junior level, he won bronze at the Russian Championships.


What nationality is Khamzat Chimaev?


Khamzat immigrated to Sweden in 2011, aged 17, as an asylum seeker. He has since become a naturalised Swedish citizen.


In a 2020 interview with Chael Sonnen, Chimaev briefly tells the story behind his move to Sweden.


“My brother came here [Sweden] 10 years ago. He was living here and get papers from Sweden, he was working here. He also take all families, I mean my mother, like everybody. We also get papers,” said Khamzat.



Where does Khamzat Chimaev train?


Since 2017, Chimaev has trained at Allstars Training Center in Stockholm, Sweden. The gym is home to fellow UFC fighters Alexander Gustafsson and Ilir Latifi. His trainer is Reza Madadi who competed in the UFC's lightweight division from 2012 to 2017, with a 3-4 record.


Khamzat previously trained at a wrestling club in the Swedish town of Kalmar.



Who is Khamzat Chimaev's manager?


Khamzat's manager is Ali Abdelaziz, the founder and president of Dominance MMA Management. Abdelaziz manages a stable of celebrated UFC fighters, including Khabib Nurmagomedov, Justin Gaethje, Kamaru Usman and Henry Cejudo.


What weight class is Khamzat Chimaev?


Previous to and during his UFC career, Chimaev has competed as both a middleweight (185 lbs or 84kg) and a welterweight (170 lbs or 77kg).


Khamzat is 6ft 2in (188cm) tall, with a 75 in (190cm) reach. He fights in an orthodox stance.


What religion is Khamzat Chimaev?


Chimaev practices Sunni Islam, the dominant religion of his native Chechnya and neighboring Dagestan. Like Khabib, he proudly declares his faith with regular pronouncements of Arabic phrases like Inshallah (God willing) and Alhamdulillah (praise be to God).



How do you pronounce Khamzat Chimaev?


Western media figures, fighters, and fans regularly mispronounce Khamzat – a Chechen variation on the Arabic name Hamza. Hazmat or Kazmat are among several butchered variations of his name.


Like with 'Khabib', the ‘K” in Khamzat is silent. This video provides the correct pronunciation of his first and last names.


In case you're wondering, Chimaev's nickname 'Borz' means 'wolf' in Chechen.


Early in his career, the Swede fought under the name Khamzat Girikhanov.


Is Khamzat Chimaev Khabib 2.0?


Many have drawn predictable comparisons between Khamzat and Khabib Nurmagomedov, even characterising the former as 'evil Khabib.'


Both have origins in the North Caucasus, are feared for their grappling-heavy, ground-and-pound style, and regularly intone words like ‘smash’ and ‘brother’ with softly-spoken Russian accents.


However, while a formidable grappler, Chimaev is probably not on the same level as Nurmagomedov. What he does posses however that Khabib doesn't, is one-punch knockout power.


“Everybody says, ‘You’re Khabib. Khabib No. 2,’ something like that. But I am Khamzat. I can knock out people, submit the people, smash the people, everything. I have everything,” Chimaev told media following his win over Gerald Meerschaert.


During media day interviews, Khabib shared his opinion of Chimaev, co-signing the interviewer's characterisation of the Chechen as "the real deal."



How did the Khamzat Chimaev vs Conor McGregor Twitter beef start?


No more illustrative of Chimaev's 'smash everybody' mentality is his story about Conor McGregor.


Hilariously, in 2018, Borz flew from Sweden to Dublin, Ireland with the intention of finding Conor McGregor in the streets near his gym, and beating the Irishman up.


An unknown amateur fighter at the time, Khamzat wanted revenge for comments McGregor had made about Khabib Nurmagomedov and Chechens. He told the story in an interview with a Russian journalist.


“At that time, I was fighting as an amateur or a pro record of 1-0 when that happened,”


“It is that time when he insulted Khabib, and he also was talking about Zubaira (Tukhugov). At that time, nobody knew who I was. He was also talking about another guy who’s also Chechen."


"I was thinking that I would catch him in the streets or at the gym and beat him up. This is what he deserved."



Unfortunately for Borz, he was stopped at the airport and later detained at a Dublin police station.


"I was just kept in a cell. I waited for maybe eight or nine hours. I was doing push-ups and squats. They didn’t even bring me food. Then after a while, they told me, ‘You have to go back to Sweden,’" said Chimaev.


In July 2020, McGregor addressed the story by simply tweeting "Rat lip" – a reference to the sizeable scar on Khamzat's lip – a tweet he has since deleted. Borz responded by tweeting his desire to "smash the burger king guy" and calling Conor a "tap machine king chicken heart." The tweets were also later deleted.


What is Khamzat Chimaev's professional MMA record?


Prior to entering the UFC, Chimaev held a 5-0 MMA record. He began his amateur career in September 2017, fighting in the Swedish promotion Fight Club Rush.


In his first fight the Swede faced future IMMAF World Champion, Khaled Laallam, in what appeared to be a school hall. As young children looked on, Khamzat brutalised Laallam and got the win via second round submission. He won his next two amateur bouts by submission and TKO.



In 16 November 2018, Khamzat made his professional debut in Middle Eastern MMA franchise Brave Combat Federation. He defeated middleweight Marko Kisic via TKO after dropping the undefeated Austrian with a straight left.



As he has in the UFC, Chimaev made a quick turnaround for his next fight, taking a short-notice bout against American Sidney Wheeler on 18 December 2018. Khamzat won via knock-out after landing an uppercut in the first round.



On 19 April 2019, Chimaev won his welterweight debut with a first-round knock-out of Russian Ikram Aliskerov, a former Sambo World Champion. The feat earned him Brave FC's Knockout of the Night award.



On 4 October 2019, Khamzat defeated South African Mzwandile Hlongwa via second-round submission. Following the victory, Chimaev was set to challenge for the Brave FC Welterweight Championship in April 2020. However, the event was postponed due to COVID-19 – during which time Khamzat signed with the UFC.



Making his UFC debut – Khamzat Chimaev vs John Phillips


On 16 July 2020, Chimaev made his UFC debut against middleweight John Phillips, replacing Dusko Todorovic on short notice. Leading into the bout, the Welsh veteran had a 20-9 MMA record, including 1-3 in the UFC.


It was an overwhelmingly dominant victory for Khamzat, who spent much of the fight in mount position, savagely grounding and pounding a clearly unmatched Phillips. The Swede won via TKO in round two, dishing out 192 strikes while taking only two, earning him a Performance of the Night bonus.


It seems Phillips didn't bear a grudge for the smashing Khamzat gave him. Dressing room footage of the duo just prior to the Welshman's October bout on Fight Island showed them interacting like old friends, with Chimaev giving Phillips a few wrestling pointers.



Khamzat Chimaev vs Rhys McKee


10 days after his debut victory, on 25 July 2020, Chimaev dropped down to welterweight to fight Irish prospect Rhys McKee, who went into the fight with a 10-2 MMA record. The Irishman was making his UFC debut, coming off a thee-fight win streak in UK franchise Cage Warriors.


The fight lasted just over three minutes, in which Khamzat dispensed a beat down on McKee, landing 68 strikes. McKee failed to land one. At one point, Chimaev simply picked the Irishman completely up off the canvas.


In victory, Khamzat broke the record for fastest consecutive wins in the UFC and earned his second Performance of the Night bonus.



Khamzat Chimaev vs Gerald Meerschaert


On 19 September 2020, Chimaev stepped back up to middleweight to face 44-fight veteran Gerald Meerschaert. The American is a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu blackbelt who came into the fight with a 31-13 record, including 6-5 in the UFC.


Leading up to the bout, Khamzat's understated yet unassailable confidence was on full display, despite many believing Meerschaert too-crafty a veteran for the untested Swede.


In the end, it took Chimaev just 17 seconds to spectacularly knock out a visibly intimidated Meerschaert.


The terrified look on Meerchaert's face just prior to the blow – the only one of the fight – showed Khamzat had clearly gotten into the American's head.


The performance launched Chimaev into UFC superstardom, earning his third Performance of the Night bonus in as many fights.



What is Khamzat Chimaev's next fight?


In a a significant step up in competition, Khamzat will next fight no. 3 ranked welterweight Leon 'Rocky' Edwards. The British fighter is on an eight-fight win streak, with a an overall MMA record of 18-3.


The fight will take place on 19 December, 2020 at UFC Fight Night 186 in Las Vegas – Khamzat's first in the US.


The match-up comes after weeks of attempted matchmaking by the UFC, who couldn't find anyone willing to fight Chimaev.


If Khamzat defeats Edwards, it will truly cement his place as a legitimate title contender and catapult the Swede into UFC superstardom.



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