Khamzat Chimaev has been backed by rival Paulo Costa to pose a "big problem" to new UFC middleweight champion Alex Pereira.
Chimaev has made a quick-time rise at 170lb, where he is ranked as one of the leading contenders after six straight wins since joining the UFC. However, his future at welterweight was thrust into doubt after he failed to make weight for his planned clash with Nate Diaz in September, which saw him instead defeat late replacement Kevin Holland at a catchweight.
'Borz' is expected to move up to 185lb and has already laid down his immediate plans for a title challenge, calling out newly crowned-champion Pereira after his win over Israel Adesanya. And Costa has stated that the Chechen star has refused to fight him but confirmed his plans to move up in weight.
“He wants to beat Alex in Rio [de Janeiro],” Costa told Submission Radio when asked about a potential fight between Chimaev and Pereira. “He is smart! I think if he fought Alex, it will be a big problem to Alex because Alex has no grappling, you know. MMA, bro, it’s so different to kickboxing. I think the odds are against Alex if the fight happens.
"But I don’t think he will be down, I don’t think that the fight will happen. I tried to fight him [Chimaev]. I asked him to fight a couple of weeks ago and he said, ‘No, I am still at 170 [pounds], are you not going to go to 185 [pounds]?’ But he saw huge opportunity to get the belt easily.”
Chimaev has shown his credentials to become a champion, defeating the likes of Gilbert Burns and Li Jingliang on his march up the rankings. Pereira was expected to try and take a clash with Chimaev before the end of the year in a quick turnaround, but made an offer to do the fight only at 205lb.
Who wins if the pair meet at 185lb - Khamzat Chimaev or Alex Pereira? Let us know in the comments section below.
'Poatan' then claimed that his rival had rejected the outing, which was later dismissed by the Chechen star. “[I] went to [my] manager and said, ‘Look, I just did a hard weight cut, I can’t make  for this right now, but tell the UFC I’ll challenge him to fight me at 205 at UFC 283 in Rio.’ Chimaev didn’t want it,” Pereira said on The MMA Hour.
“He’s a big guy, [I’m] a big guy, let’s do it at light heavyweight so we don’t have to worry about a weight cut. We offered 205 for Rio. When I fought [Sean] Strickland, it was a done deal I’d be fighting for the title next, so Chimaev wanted to jump on the hype train again, ‘I’ll fight you’. And again, he knew it wasn’t going to happen because he was booked for a title fight, so he chose to do that to promote himself.”