After missing weight by 7.5 pounds for his initially scheduled welterweight bout at UFC 279, Chimaev (12-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) appears to be gunning for a return to middleweight. He recently called for a shot at reigning champion Alex Pereira.
But with Chimaev only notching two UFC wins at 185 pounds, none against ranked opposition, Cannonier (16-6 MMA, 9-6 UFC) suggests he should face a top-ranked contender first before a title shot.
“Personally, if he wants to get up there, he needs to go through at least somebody in the top 10,” Cannonier told MMA reporter Helen Yee. “Being one of the ones at the top, he would have to face me or Robert (Whittaker) or Israel (Adesanya). If you’re gonna give him somebody, give him somebody in the top three like they did at welterweight.
“I don’t care what they do with him. I’m not really focused on him. I’m focused on myself. So I’m sitting right where I am and whoever comes at me, I’m gonna give it to them the same way. I’ll give it to anybody. I’m just here to fight. That would be a fun fight.”
Although Cannonier thinks Chimaev should have to earn a title shot, he understands that it’s not exactly how the UFC always operates. He points to Pereira’s fast rise as an example.
“I feel you should definitely fight your way to the top,” Cannonier said. “I also understand the business side of things to a certain extent, and it wouldn’t look good. It wouldn’t feel good, that’s for damn sure.
“I can’t sit here and say this is what he should do to get to the title. Alex Pereira had what? Two, three fights? Then he won his title. I’m not here to say who should do what to get a title. UFC has its structure that it goes by, and we’ve seen how it plays out in many different situations.”
Cannonier rebounded from his title loss to then-champion Israel Adesanya at UFC 276 by edging out Sean Strickland in the UFC Fight Night 216 headliner in December.