Khamzat Chimaev’s road to the UFC middleweight title may have gotten a speed bump.
The unbeaten contender, presumed to be next in line for new champion Sean Strickland after his win over Kamaru Usman at UFC 294, will be out for at least a month with a torn ligament in his hand, according to a report from UFC broadcast partner ESPN.
After his win over Usman (20-4 MMA, 15-3 UFC), a unanimous decision in Abu Dhabi eight days ago, Chimaev (13-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) said he thought he broke his right hand. But his manager told ESPN he’ll be in a brace for four weeks, then will see how the hand feels.
Strickland (28-5 MMA, 15-5 UFC) pulled off a major upset when he outworked Israel Adesanya for a lopsided unanimous decision to win the title at UFC 293 in September. He was vocal after Chimaev’s win over Usman that his likely next opponent hadn’t done enough, in his estimation, to warrant a title shot – particularly because he was fighting an opponent who was debuting in the weight class on less than two weeks’ notice.
Now, regardless of whether or not he thinks Chimaev is a worthy first challenger, he’ll have to wait an extra month for his return if that’s indeed who his opponent will be.
Chimaev’s win over Usman was his first at middleweight in more than three years. Two wins after that were at welterweight, and a third was at a 180-pound catchweight after he came in so far north of the 170-pound limit at UFC 279 that it required a change of opponent and a bump out of the main event to the co-feature and a win over Kevin Holland.
Now intentionally at 185 pounds, Chimaev may have no issues if his ligament tear truly winds up being just a monthlong setback. But the longer Strickland waits, the more likely it is the name Dricus Du Plessis will start to get mentioned.
UFC officials have not commented on Chimaev’s injury, a timetable for his return or any other plans for Strickland.