Khamzat Chimaev believes Kamaru Usman took short-notice UFC 294 fight ‘just to make money’

Khamzat Chimaev welcomes all challengers looking to earn a big payday.

The late-notice withdrawal of Paulo Costa has resulted in former UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman stepping in to fight Chimaev in a middleweight bout this Saturday at UFC 294, giving fans a a highly anticipated matchup under unexpected circumstances. To Chimaev, it makes sense that Usman would take the risk as he believes the rest of the roster sees him as a money fight.

Chimaev elaborated on that point at UFC 294 media day on Wednesday when asked if he knew he’d fight Usman someday.

“If he has the belt, I would go down, but the guy doesn’t have the belt, that’s why I don’t want to go down to [170], cut the weight for nothing,” Chimaev said. “If there’s gold there, of course, I’m going to cut the weight, but he couldn’t take the belt [back from Leon Edwards] so that’s why he asked, ‘Who is that guy?’ I’m Khamzat Chimaev. That’s why you come up and fight with me.”

“The guy comes just to make money,” Chimaev later added. “It’s a lot of money put on that. I think he gets a lot of good money when somebody fights me. It’s different-level money. That’s why he’s here. Of course, he comes to win, everyone comes to a fight to win, but he already has an excuse and he’s getting paid, so I think that’s why he comes. Everyone here, a lot of guys talk about ‘My history, this belt, this s***,’ when somebody put the money out, millions—one day everyone will forget about that but the guy is going to have his money for his family. That’s why he’s here, I think.”

There was plenty of bad blood between Chimaev and Costa to spice up their fight, not to mention the possibility of a title shot at freshly crowned middleweight champion Sean Strickland. With a decorated name like Usman entering the fray, that title shot could still be in play and Chimaev admitted that he’s even more excited about facing Usman than Costa.

“Of course, because since day one I get to the UFC, everyone spoke about Khamzat-Usman, Khamzat-Usman,” Chimaev said. “Our wrestling skills, our striking, all of these things. Usman is a fighter like me, but he’s the old version, I’m new, different. Like iPhones come out, like iPhone 5, I’m like, Pro, it’s different.”

Chimaev is undefeated since turning pro in 2018, including 6-0 mark in the UFC. He has finished five of his six UFC opponents, winning his most recent fight in less than half a round when he submitted Kevin Holland in a 180-pound catchweight bout in September 2022.

Inactivity has seemingly kept Chimaev from earning a title shot, an opportunity he is willing to wait for as long as he needs to no matter what happens on Saturday in Abu Dhabi.

“I don’t think about this fight right now, I’m focused on Usman,” Chimaev said when asked about challenging Strickland. “They promised me, like I said, before Gilbert Burns, ‘If you win against this guy you’re going to fight for the title.’ Since then, wait two years, now I fight again [at UFC 279), but didn’t get the title, so I don’t know. I’m not after just a title, I go after all heads in the UFC. Smash somebody, make money, be happy. If I finish everyone, stop everyone, they have to give me all the belts.”

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