Chimaev endured a back and forth three-round war with former welterweight title challenger Gilbert Burns last weekend to win a unanimous decision. It was the biggest test of Chimaev's UFC career, but a win against Burns means he will likely break into the top two at 170-pounds after just five UFC fights.
UFC boss Dana White said Chimaev proved he was the "real deal" after outpointing Burns. He also compared the attention Chimaev has received to that of McGregor and Rousey at the pinnacle of their UFC careers.
“Yeah, he’s gone that fast (as McGregor and Rousey),” White said after UFC 273. “Fight Island, remember that? He said, ‘I wanna fight again next week.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ and ever since then, he’s been like a rocket ship."
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Chimaev broke UFC records for the fastest wins and quickest three-fight winning streak in modern history in 2020 whilst the promotion held events on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. White has been left stunned by Chimaev's rise from an unknown prospect to a title contender.
"I think he’s got three and a half million followers on Instagram. You saw what happened tonight," he said. "Think about this: when’s the last time you saw a guy come out of nowhere? Nobody knows who he is, comes out of nowhere, then fights a couple of fights then fights the number two ranked guy in the world and wins.
“When you get into the top five in the UFC, no joke, man and especially in that division. That division is straight killers. Tonight was a big test for him and he passed."
White thinks former interim titleholder Colby Covington will be next in line for Chimaev. Speaking after his win, 'Borz' admitted he would be willing to be a backup fighter for Kamaru Usman's planned title fight against Leon Edwards in July.
Chimaev, who had previously absorbed just one significant strike in the UFC, didn't have it all his way against Burns as he was left with a nasty cut under his eye after being outstruck. Chimaev admitted he made a mistake trying to knock his opponent out.
“I was too excited to knock him out,” Chimaev said. "That was wrong for me, from the beginning. The guy was tough, I didn’t accept that. From the first second to the last second, I tried to finish him. Next time, I’m going to work to be a little bit smarter. I’m going to smash somebody."