Former two-time welterweight title challenger Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson says that Khamzat Chimaev’s rise through the rankings is a ‘slap in the face’ to each of the division’s fighters who have endeavoured to climb the ladder in the traditional way.
Chimaev announced himself in the UFC when he won three fights in the span of just 66 days while barely received any damage whatsoever throughout them. Such was his dominance in his early UFC career, along with his willingness to take a fight on short notice, the Chechen-born Swede has become one of the division’s most talked-about fighters.
Chimaev will have an opportunity to prove his worth when he fights top-ranked Leon Edwards in a high profile main event next month, but Thompson says that opportunities behind handed to him are coming too quickly.
“I think he was ranked No. 15, which doesn’t make sense to me,” Thompson said to MMA Junkie. “I know he’s had one fight in the welterweight division, and his opponent (Rhys 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. 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.”
Furthermore, Thompson doesn’t expect the UFC to slow their endorsement of Chimaev if he becomes the first fighter to beat England’s Edwards in more than five years.
“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 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.
“For Leon Edwards, I don’t think it does anything,” Thompson said. “I think it’s a lose-lose for him. Even though Khamzat’s got a lot of hype around him, a good win, where does that put him? It doesn’t move him up any rank, maybe a title fight, which I think he deserves anyway. So, yeah, the welterweight division is a little crazy at this point.”