Stephen Thompson says the push Khamzat Chimaev is getting from the UFC is “”a slap in the face to everybody who’s worked their butts off” in the promotion.
Chimaev was one of the breakout stars of 2020 for the UFC, rattling off stoppage wins over John Philips, Rhys McKee and Gerald Meerschaert in the span of a few months. Despite the fact that he’s yet to be beat a ranked opponent, and that his lone welterweight win came against McKee, who is now 0-2 in the division, Chimaev has been given a fight with No. 3-ranked welterweight contender Leon Edwards.
Thompson, who has been fighting top-ranked welterweights for years, and previously angled for a fight with Edwards to no avail, feels that’s a “slap in the face.”
“I think he was ranked No. 15, which doesn’t make sense to me,” Thompson told MMA Junkie. “I know he’s had one fight in the welterweight division, and his opponent (McKee) is 0-2 right now and normally a lightweight, a 155er, so it just doesn’t make sense how this guy can jump past everybody who’s worked their behinds off to get to where they’re at, and now he’s ranked No. 15 fighting the No. 3 guy, I believe. It’s just ridiculous to me.
“I had to fight through murderer’s row to get to where I’m at and so did Leon Edwards,” Thompson added. “He was on a (eight-fight) winning streak to get to where he’s at. I had to fight a slew of guys, I mean tough opponents. Robert Whittaker, Jake Ellenberger, Rory McDonald, Johny Hendricks to get to where I’m at, and then this guy just jumps past everybody. I think it’s a slap in the face to everybody who’s worked their butts off.”
Thompson believes Chimaev will continue to benefit from favorable matchmaking if he defeats Edwards when they fight in January, and that the Chechen-born Swede could even be given a title shot in victory.
“Guaranteed he’s probably gonna get a title shot if he beats Leon Edwards, and I kinda called this,” Thompson said. “I was wondering why they were pushing Khamzat so hard, and I was like watch Khabib [Nurmagomedov] retire, because they’re from the same neck of the woods, they got to please that market, so it kinda makes sense why they’re pushing him so hard.”
Stephen Thompson is widely known as one of the nicest, classiest fighters in MMA, which gives his complaints about Khamzat Chimaev’s preferential treatment some extra weight. Do you think his concerns are warranted?