Coach Eric Nicksick eager for Sean Strickland vs. Khamzat Chimaev: ‘Those guys had amazing rounds’ in training

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland’s first title defense is expected to be against Khamzat Chimaev, and coach Eric Nicksick is thrilled about the matchup.

While many have speculated on what a potential Strickland-Chimaev fight could look like, Nicksick already has a good idea. Nicksick, head coach at Xtreme Couture, has seen Strickland and Chimaev train together under his watchful eye, and he liked what he saw.

“I love Khamzat. He’s great,” Nicksick told MMA Junkie on Wednesday. “He’s a guy that, when he was in the gym, he worked so hard, and I thought he was a good teammate. He made the room better. Those guys had amazing rounds. Those two pushed one another.

“Unfortunate this is the business: You might have to fight your friends down the line. I hope that these guys put on a good show and sell the fight well. At the end of the day, it’s not my decision. It’s the promotion’s decision. I think you can make an argument for Dricus (Du Plessis). Obviously, Izzy (Israel Adesanya) is going to take some time off. You can make the argument that Khamzat should fight (Paulo) Costa after that last performance, or you throw him in there now, strike while the iron is hot and not lose that ability to fight Sean. But I’m excited for Khamzat. I think he’s the guy that deserves that title fight. I’m looking forward to that matchup.”

Chimaev (13-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) fought this past Saturday, defeating former UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in the co-main event of UFC 294. UFC CEO Dana White had labeled the matchup as a title eliminator leading up to the event.

Strickland (28-5 MMA, 15-5 UFC) also fought somewhat recently. He competed last month at UFC 293 where he pulled off a big upset, outpointing Israel Adesanya to win the middleweight title.

Nicksick said he already got word from the UFC confirming Khamzat is next. He expects that fight to go down in early 2024.

“Yeah, (first quarter of 2024), I think so,” Nicksick said. “Depending on if Khamzat is the opponent and he has a broken hand or anything like that, which we still don’t know. Depending on their schedule, what it looks like travel wise. I got a text from those guys, the UFC, right after the fight saying just let me know when you guys want it, and we’ll be ready.”

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie