Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Khamzat Chimaev ‘violently ill,’ out of UFC Fight Night main event against former champ Robert Whittaker

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What started as a red-hot fight summer has erupted into a flaming wreck. A UFC middleweight title eliminator between Robert Whittaker and Khamzat Chimaev has been scrapped two weeks before their UFC Fight Night headliner in Saudi Arabia. The news comes amidst reports that Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler is in jeopardy for UFC 303 the following week.

UFC president Dana White announced on Thursday via Instagram that Whittaker vs. Chimaev is canceled, stating that Chimaev fell “violently ill.” Whittaker vs. Chimaev was scheduled to headline the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 22. White had previously stated the winner would receive a UFC middleweight title shot. Whittaker will instead fight middleweight prospect Ikram Aliskerov, confirming reports from independent Australian journalist Ben P.

Chimaev’s teammate Guram Kutateladze posted a photo from a hospital room, seemingly corroborating White’s claim that Chimaev is ill. The man’s face is obscured by Chimaev’s Instagram handle placed directly over his face.

“Behind every hardship there is relief,” a translated caption reads.

Thursday’s announcement is the latest in a series of challenging health updates for Chimaev. The undefeated fighter’s UFC career started tremendously with three dominant victories in two months. A high-stakes fight with future welterweight champion Leon Edwards fell through in December 2020 after Chimaev contracted COVID-19. Lingering health complications from the illness sabotaged several attempts to rebook the fight. Chimaev even briefly announced his retirement in March 2021 due to lung complications before returning triumphantly from a 13-month layoff against Li Jingliang.

The new matchup complicates this Saturday’s card. Aliskerov was previously scheduled to fight short-notice replacement Antonio Trocoli in the UFC Fight Night co-main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas this weekend. It’s unclear if promotional newcomer Trocoli will remain on Saturday’s card.

Former UFC middleweight champion Whittaker (25-7) bounced back from a loss to current champion Dricus du Plessis by winning a decision over Paulo Costa. Aliskerov (15-1) is an exciting “Contender Series” prospect with knockout wins in his two UFC appearances. Interestingly, Aliskerov’s only career loss is a 2019 KO loss to Chimaev on the regional circuit.

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