UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards believes unbeaten contender Khamzat Chimaev has been overvalued by the promotion, and in a recent interview with Michael Bisping, said as much as he prepares for his first title defence against former titlist Kamaru Usman in March.
Edwards: He’s good, but not what the UFC built him to be
Khamzat Chimaev. A lot of intrigue surrounded the 28-year-old, nicknamed Borz, quickly after his impressive UFC debut on Fight Island in the summer of 2020, and while he has leaned into the villain role of late, there’s no doubting his capabilities in two divisions: welter and middleweight.
After his dramatic fifth-round head kick knockout win over Kamaru Usman last August, Edwards knew he’d make the first defence of his title against the former champion – availability permitting – and is aware of those hungry contenders waiting in line for an opportunity too.
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During a recent appearance on Michael Bisping’s podcast, the 31-year-old said:
“He’s a good fighter, I don’t think he’s what the UFC was building him to be, like this untouchable monster. He’s a solid fighter, but there’s always ways to beat these guys. This is why I’m on an 11-fight win streak. I’m not just going to go out there and scrap with you, I know how to fight.”
Edwards-Usman 3 is expected to go ahead as the UFC 286 headliner at London’s O2 Arena on March 18, but hasn’t yet been made official by the promotion – which will only fan the flames about Usman’s reported hand injury. Leon himself has recently debunked that theory, though.
Nonetheless, it’s also easy to forget Edwards-Chimaev was a matchup twice scheduled to take place over the past two years, with title implications at the time.
Chimaev, who memorably missed weight and had a late opponent change to accomodate his error in September, will still campaign between 170 and 185lbs – both divisions have new champions after Alex Pereira’s fifth-round knockout win over Israel Adesanya in November.
A title eliminator of sorts between him and Covington has been speculated since October 2021, with Edwards eager to see that happen before facing him once and for all sometime in future. Covington hasn’t featured since beating friend-turned-rival Jorge Masvidal last March.
“He’s on my list as well that I want to take out. So let him go make weight, probably fight Colby [Covington] or something like that, and we can run that on as well.”
UFC 286 card, as it stands
London, The O2 Arena
Main card, prelims order to be finalised
Head coach Trevor Wittman will have double duty in London: it’s been announced today that Usman’s training partner and friend Gaethje will end a 10-month layoff against surging contender Fiziev in a compelling contest which many critics have long called for at 155lbs.
After being outclassed in Paris by former champion Robert Whittaker last September, Vettori will look to defend his top-5 ranking at 185lbs against Dolidze, who shot up the pecking order after three straight finishes – most recently against Jack Hermansson last month.
Elsewhere, women’s flyweight prospect Casey O’Neill has the toughest test of her career after ACL surgery last summer against former title challenger Jennifer Maia.
Welterweight championship: Leon Edwards (c) vs. Kamaru Usman 
Lightweight: Justin Gaethje  vs. Rafael Fiziev 
Middleweight: Marvin Vettori  vs. Roman Dolidze 
Women’s Flyweight: Jennifer Maia  vs. Casey O’Neill 
Featherweight: Nathaniel Wood vs. Lerone Murphy
Lightweight: Jai Herbert vs. Ludovit Klein
Welterweight: Daniel Rodriguez vs. Gunnar Nelson
Flyweight: Malcolm Gordon vs. Jake Hadley
Lightweight: Chris Duncan vs. Michal Figlak
Women’s Flyweight: Veronica Macedo vs. Juliana Miller
Card subject to change
Picture source: Getty Images