Khamzat Chimaev's absence from the first UFC middleweight title fight of 2024 is quite understandable after the top contender shared updates on Twitter on Tuesday night.
In UFC 294 last October, "Borz" made a comeback after being inactive since late 2022, rejoining the 185-pound contender mix. Initially set to face Paulo Costa, who withdrew due to a severe staph infection, Chimaev instead faced former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, securing a significant majority decision victory.
Despite the bout having implications for a title shot, UFC CEO Dana White hinted that the winner would challenge for the title. However, Chimaev was reportedly not part of negotiations for the upcoming title fight between champion Sean Strickland and challenger Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 297 on Jan. 20, according to Strickland's manager Lance Spaude in a November interview. Chimaev had confirmed a hand injury shortly after his fight and mentioned an upcoming surgery. Last night on Twitter, he further confirmed his hand injury through hospital photos, also revealing an unknown illness that delayed his return. The tweet was deleted shortly after being posted.
“I was very sick, my hand was injured, so I couldn’t return right away,” Chimaev said via Twitter translate. “I want to tell all the fountains, I want to see myself in battle more than all of you. I love this job. I will do and prove that I am the best, as always we do, and I will be back soon to Insha’Allal training.”
At 29 years old, Chimaev proved himself as one of the world's top welterweights in 2022 by beating Gilbert Burns in a unanimous decision, a fight that many thought was the best of the year. Later, he had a weight issue in his next match against Kevin Holland, initially set at 180 pounds. Despite missing weight by 7.5 pounds for what was supposed to be a main event against Nate Diaz, Chimaev still dominated Holland and won with a first-round d'arce choke.