Michel Pereira (left) won a decision against Andre Fialho earlier this year | Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Khamzat Chimaev is expected to face Gilbert Burns in the biggest fight of his career at UFC 273 on April 9, and fellow UFC welterweight Michel Pereira believes the world will meet the “real” Chimaev that night in Jacksonville, Fla.
Speaking on this week’s edition of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, Pereira discussed the hype around the Chechen fighter, who has won four in a row under the UFC banner. Chimaev has steamrolled every single one of his opponents in one-sided clashes since July 2020, and opened as a 3-to-1 favorite against Burns.
“I don’t think he’s this monster people have created,” Pereira said. “We’ll see the real Chimaev in the ‘Durinho’ fight. That’s when we’ll see who’s the real Chimaev. But us, fighters, we kind of see who’s who a little bit. He might surprise, but he’s not [that better] than Durinho. Chimaev is good, but he hasn’t faced top competition yet. I wanna see if he’s that man against Durinho. But I don’t see all that danger people talk about.”
Chimaev, who is 10-0 as a professional, debuted in the UFC against John Phillips, winning via second-round submission. He re-entered the octagon 10 days later and destroyed Rhys McKee in under four minutes. Chimaev was back in action less than a month after that, stopping Gerald Meerschaert in just 17 seconds. After a year-long break due to a bout of COVID-19, the Chechen welterweight walked through Li Jingliang in Abu Dhabi for another stoppage victory.
Burns, a jiu-jitsu specialist who has developed into a well-rounded MMA fighter, made his way towards 170-pound gold with big wins over the likes of Tyron Woodley, Demian Maia and Gunnar Nelson, but came up short against UFC king Kamaru Usman. Durinho rebounded with a decision win over Stephen Thompson this past July.
“[Chimaev] has great wrestling, of course,” Pereira said. “But I don’t think his striking is that big of a deal. He fought guys and went there like crazy… I fight for entertainment, to put on a show for the fans. For me, to go there and end the fight in a minute or two, I don’t like this. If it happens, cool, but it’s not my [thing]. I like to go to the second and third rounds. But I don’t think Chimaev is this monster. No. All day, every day, when [they] want [me to fight him], I’m in.”
“He’s good, but he won’t do [the same thing to Burns],” he continued. “The thing is, he has great wrestling, he trains wrestling since he’s a kid, and I think wrestling is one of the best weapons [in MMA]. When the guy has good wrestling, brother, it’s a problem. But I don’t think… I’ll give you the example of Khabib’s cousin [Islam Makhachev]. They have incredible wrestling but to box on the feet, they will trade, but it’s not that great. They might get the knockout because it’s a fight, cool, but they aren’t great. They are fucking great in wrestling, and everybody fighting them knows that. You have to respect them.”
Pereira has won his past four in the UFC with decisions over Andre Fialho, Niko Price and Khaos Williams, plus a submission against Zelim Imadaev. Throughout his 40-fight career dating back to 2011, Pereira has knocked out 10 opponents and tapped seven, and has “plenty of confidence” in his wrestling against Chimaev or any other top-ranked wrestler.
“I have [seven] fights in the UFC and was not taken down once,” he said. “Sure, I haven’t fought a pure wrestler, but people have tried to take me down. Niko is a difficult matchup, he has long arms. I defended it, but you can’t take him off your legs because he has long arms. The thing is, I’m much stronger. Everyone I fought so far in the UFC, I was always the stronger one. I have that advantage.
“Brother, you might have great wrestling all you want, but when you shoot at my strong legs with good [takedown] defense, it feels like you’re shooting at a post. It’s over for wrestling, my friend. It’s like Khabib’s cousin. They are way too strong, brother. And when they put their hands on these chickens, these poor little guys, they will [beat them].”