LAS VEGAS – Perhaps it’s not the most ideal situation for Li Jingliang to share a card with Khamzat Chimaev, but he doesn’t see it that way. If he did, who could blame him?
Last October at UFC 267, undefeated Chimaev impressively choked out Jingliang in the first round of their welterweight bout. It’s a highlight that gets played repeatedly in UFC promo videos ahead of Chimaev’s showdown with Nate Diaz on Saturday in the UFC 279 headliner.
Having to be reminded of that defeat is no big deal for Jingliang, although it certainly helps that he rebounded with a TKO victory over Muslim Salikhov in his most recent fight in July.
“This is the sport. This is the game,” Jingliang told reporters, including MMA Junkie, through an interpreter Wednesday at UFC 279 media day. “It’s always one guy wins, one guy loses. The most important thing is you need to learn from the loss, the failure. I took lessons from the Khamzat fight and got a huge win last time. But you should always keep calm and carry on, just keep working, and show your capability in the octagon.”
He continued, “I feel happy for him, you know? Anything can happen in this game. If I was the winner that night, maybe I am in the main event (this Saturday), and they would show the highlight of me beating him. But I feel happy for him.”
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Besides, Jingliang (19-7 MMA, 11-5 UFC) has his own fight to worry about as he welcomes former UFC interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson back to 170 pounds in the night’s co-main event. It’ll mark Ferguson’s return to the division after an 11-year hiatus and comes at a time when he’s lost four fights in a row, including the Knockout of the Year contender vs. Michael Chandler this past May.
For Jingliang, Ferguson (25-7 MMA, 15-5 UFC) is a “bigger name and tougher opponent” that he’s pleased to face.
“Surprised. I was shocked, same as all you guys,” Jingliang said of being offered Ferguson by the UFC. “My first reaction was like, ‘Does UFC want me to drop down to 155?’ And then they told me Tony would move up to welterweight. I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ It’s amazing.”
Jingliang said he does believe he has “a little bit of an advantage” in the fight. “I don’t think strength is going to be an issue for me to fight Tony Ferguson,” he said. But he’s certainly not about to take Ferguson lightly.
When it comes down to it, the specific opponent doesn’t change his overall approach.
“Whoever is my opponent, I will always try my best in the octagon and fight for the people who support me,” Jingliang said. “… I think if we just do our job, an amazing fight will come by itself.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 279.