Stephen Thompson: Khamzat Chimaev treatment is a slap in the face
The final UFC event of the year takes place on Saturday; #5 ranked welterweight Stephen Thompson fights #11 ranked Geoff Neal in the main event. The card was supposed to be headlined by #15 ranked Kamzat Chimaev vs. #3 Leon Edwards. With a win, Chimaev would have capped off perhaps the greatest UFC debut year ever, but Edwards tested positive for COVID-19 and the fight was delayed.
Thompson, 37, has been doing martial arts almost since birth. A child star in karate, he graduated to kickboxing over ten years ago, and began fighting professionally in MMA in 2010. By 2012 “Wonderboy” was in the UFC, and twice lost to then division champion Tyron Woodley by razor-thin margins, a Majority Decision and a Majority Draw.
By contrast, Chimaev tore through the standard UFC three-fight contract in unparalleled fashion. “Borz” debuted in the UFC in July, earning performance bonuses a record-setting 11 days apart, in two divisions, and then called out welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Instead, he got Gerald Meerschaert, and crushed him too, in 17 seconds, earning a third performance bonus. In all three fights, Chimaev has received just two strikes.
UFC president Dana White said Chimaev may be most special fighter he ever saw. However, in a recent interview, Thompson, who had himself been campaigning for the Edwards fight, was not so sure.
“I think he was ranked No. 15, which doesn’t make sense to me,” said Thompson. “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 #15 fighting the #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 [8-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 MacDonald, 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.”
“For Leon Edwards, I don’t think it does anything. 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.”
“Guaranteed he’s probably gonna get a title shot if he beats Leon Edwards, and I kinda called this. 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.”
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