Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream the UFC live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.
Khamzat Chimaev is currently one of the hottest young talents in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, but the promotion’s plan of double booking the prospect seems presumptuous to say the least.
That’s how Chimaev’s first opponent, Gerald Meerschaert sees it. Chimaev and Meerschaert are slated to meet at UFC Fight Night 178 on Sept. 19. The Allstars Training Center representative is then expected to square off against jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia at an event later this year.
“It’s disrespect. He’s got to get through me,” Meerschaert recently told ESPN. “I’m tied for the record for most submissions in the middleweight division. I’m a dangerous fighter; I’m a game fighter. And look, I get it: He’s undefeated, he’s young. He fights just like Khabib, who’s on a hot streak right now and has a big following. I’m pretty sure he took the two closest fights back to back probably in UFC history. A lot of steam coming in behind his name.
“I’m not undefeated. I’m not gonna be the blue-chip prospect. But you know what I can do? I can be The Miracle on Ice. I can be Cinderella Man. If you want to watch somebody that’s scratched and clawed to get where they’re at, then watch me. I’ve got the blood, sweat under my fingernails just from trying to fight my way back in it.”
Meanwhile, UFC president Dana White believes Chimaev already has earned the right to have two fights scheduled ahead of time. Chimaev already has plenty of hype behind him after scoring dominant victories in the Octagon against John Phillips and Rhys McKee in less than two week’s time.
“The thing is, the guy wants to keep fighting,” White said following the Contender Series on Tuesday night. “He wants all these fights back-to-back. It’s no disrespect to his opponent, he’s either going to win or lose. That has nothing to do with us. That’s up to them, but to do that, for him to really fight two fights in a row, you have to book him. And for a guy like him, I would never do that for somebody else. I’d be like, ‘Relax. Let’s see if you get through this fight,’ but what I’ve seen from him, I’m willing to do that with him.”
Meerschaert represents a step up for Chimaev, both in terms of weight class and in experience. The 32-year-old Roufusport product has compiled a 31-13 mark since his professional debut in 2007. That resume also includes 11 bouts in the UFC. Meerschaert believes he can give Chimaev his first real taste of adversity.
All these young kids coming up that thing if they can get by with eight perfect wins like that, it’s not gonna happen,” Meerschaert said. “”He has never met resistance in any of his UFC fights. Every time he goes out there he just runs right through people. What’s gonna happen when Khamzat runs into somebody that doesn’t do exactly what he wants? What’s gonna happen when he tries to play out his game plan and what he wants to do turns into a nightmare? And that’s what we’re gonna find out.”
White can see how someone might view the situation as disrespectful to Chimaev’s first opponent. However, the UFC boss is confident that Chimaev is the rare type of talent who can handle such pressure.
“It’s fascinating,” White said. “We’ve never really had anybody that’s doing anything like he is right now. So I could see why you would say, ‘Don’t you think this is disrespectful booking a fight for him when he’s got a fight?’ but that’s how you have to do it. It’s interesting, I like it, and I’ve never had a guy like this.
“It’s fun, I’ll play this game with him. After what I saw in his first two fights – he fought real guys, he didn’t fight chumps. This isn’t a guy who blew through a couple of set-up fights. He beat real people, and I’m going to see how it plays out.”
« Previous Augusto Sakai Reveals He Suffered Broken, Dislocated Ribs in Loss to Alistair Overeem Next Preview: UFC Fight Night 177 ‘Waterson vs. Hill’ Main Card »