Michael Chiesa was never going to fight Kamaru Usman at UFC 263.
It was never a thing, but did Chiesa correct the record to let everyone know he was going to face Vicente Luque in his next fight? Of course not.
When you’re in a company where it’s worth being in the conversation, and it’s definitely worth mentioning alongside the current title holder, you shut your mouth and let others promote. If Usman’s longtime manager Ali Abdelaziz meant that his client was more interested in taking on Chiesa at UFC 263 than fighting a rivalry with Colby Covington, as he did recently, it doesn’t. would only help “Maverick” in the long run.
“To you guys I was like, ‘I’m looking forward to this fight, great,’” Chiesa said on What the hell. “Why do you think I didn’t push him?” I knew who it was going to be. … I wasn’t angry about it. This is not the first time that this has happened. “
In addition to having already agreed to fight Luque at UFC 265, Chiesa knew he was much closer to fighting Usman for a brief moment this spring, when the UFC tried to confirm an opponent for UFC 261 in April. Jorge Masvidal was already a favorite to get rematch with Usman. But out of the blue, he got a call from his manager.
“He called me and he said, ‘Hey, what shape are you in right now?’ [I said,] ‘I’m training. I only took three days off when I got back from Fight Island. He’s like, ‘Do you want to fight Kamaru [on] April 24? ‘ I was like, ‘Pull up, I’m not going to say no. But yes, let me know.
Chiesa had just landed in Oklahoma City to serve as a guest commentator for the UFC LFA power league. At first he wondered if he shouldn’t find a treadmill and start running.
“I’m going crazy here,” he said. “I know what to do now. I’m trying to prepare for the greatest moment of my life if it comes in such a short time frame.
Then he thought about it a bit more, and he figured that if he got the call less than two months before the pay-per-view event, it probably had more to do with the negotiations between the promotion and the Usman’s opponent only with a real need for a new face.
“I know how this business works,” said Chiesa, the No.8 welterweight for MMA Fighting Global Rankings. “I would like to think that I am savvy enough about this stuff. “
When Abdelaziz recently decided to give him some more free press, Chiesa was more than happy to take it. He did not intend to return until July. Then, if he beat Luque, fans would make the connection to the title.
Now on to the hardest part: beating Luque.
“This is the fight I need to take it to the next level,” Chiesa said. “It’s a test that I have to pass before reaching the next level. If I can win, either at the finish or by decision, whatever the outcome, I’m going to have to go through the fire to get it.
“I want to fight for the title. If I go out there and have a dominant performance, I don’t see how I can’t play my part with a five-game winning streak and be the newly created No.5. Why not me? But I am not looking too far. I’m deadlocked, focused on Vicente Luque.
He better be. Luque finished 12 of 16 opponents inside the Octagon and is currently on a three-game winning streak punctuated by sending ex-champion Tyron Woodley to the UFC. If Chiesa takes any part of his opponent lightly, he could wake up to immediate medical attention.
“I’m not saying this just to build my opponent: he’s the most dangerous guy I’ve ever fought,” he said. “If you look at his record and what he did in the Octagon, no one would disagree with me. “
It’s also not hard to see why Usman and Abdelaziz would consider Chiesa a worthy opponent. He’s undefeated with four straight wins since moving from the lightweight division, and the names he’s beaten are all seasoned veterans of the sport, including a former lightweight champion (Rafael dos Anjos) and a interim welterweight champion (Carlos Condit). But with other contenders like Covington and Leon Edwards on the bridge, he needs one of those iconic wins that gets everyone talking.
Another thing Chiesa learned during her time in the UFC is that you can go from the middle of the pack to the front quickly if the circumstances line up. Even if they don’t, he’s ready to fight.
“It’s crazy to think I’ve been here for nine years,” he said. “Am I becoming Michael Bisping?” Am I going to be the guy who has to fight for a decade before I get my title shot? If so, it doesn’t matter. It is very good. As long as I have one, as soon as possible. I have to fight for the title. It’s my destiny. “