UFC suffers fresh blow with Khamzat Chimaev ‘violently ill’ ahead of Saudi Arabia card

UFC suffers fresh blow with Khamzat Chimaev ‘violently ill’ ahead of Saudi Arabia card

The UFC has suffered a major blow on the same day that Conor McGregor’s fight cancellation was announced, with Khamzat Chimaev out of the 22 June main event in Saudi Arabia.

McGregor’s UFC 303 main event against Michael Chandler, which was set for 29 June, was cancelled on Thursday (13) June due to an injury to the Irishman. The co-main event was also disrupted, with Jamahal Hill replaced by Anthony Smith, who faces Carlos Ulberg – who was already stepping in for Khalil Rountree Jr.

And the UFC has had to make further adjustments, with illness ruling Chimaev out of next week’s Fight Night main event. The Russian was due to fight former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, but UFC president Dana White said: “Unfortunately Khamzat Chimaev is out of the fight next weekend in Saudi Arabia.

“[He’s] violently, and I mean violently, ill. So, he’s going back home, and hopefully he gets well soon.”

Ikram Aliskerov will replace Chimaev against Whittaker.

Russian Aliskerov suffered the sole defeat of his professional career in 2019, losing to Chimaev via first-round knockout. Whittaker is aiming to build on a win over Paulo Costa, whom the Australian outpointed in February.

Chimaev, 30, started his MMA career in electric fashion, going 10-0 with finishes in the first two rounds of every fight. Failed weight-cuts and recurring illnesses have slowed his momentum, however.

The Russian last fought in October, outpointing former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, who stepped in for Costa on short notice.

Chimaev’s bout with Whittaker, who held the middleweight belt from 2017 to 2019, was due to crown the next No 1 contender at 185lb. Incumbent title holder Dricus Du Plessis, who stopped Whittaker last year, is expected to defend the belt against former champion Israel Adesanya this year.

The UFC’s Riyadh card will be the promotion’s first event in Saudi Arabia.