While Cannonier was offered a short-notice booking against Chimaev at UFC 294, “The Killa Gorilla” suffered an MCL tear in practice shortly after getting the call. Chimaev welcomed former welterweight champ Kamaru Usman to middleweight instead, edging out a majority decision win.
“Borz” claims to have been guaranteed a title shot with a win over Usman and has voiced his frustration about the delay in proceedings. However, Cannonier believes he also has a legitimate claim to title contention and wouldn’t mind taking on Chimaev in a No. 1 contender fight.
“It’ll sound cool to say, ‘I’m your huckleberry.’ It does sound cool,” Cannonier told Inside Fighting. “At this point in time, he’s ranked No. 9. I’m down to make it happen, as long as it’s clear that this is a contender's match. … When I get back, if they’re not going to give me the title [shot, then I want] the next best thing, the thing that gets me to the title. And if you say that’s Khamzat, let’s do it.”
Chimaev has recently shown a tendency to slow down in the later rounds due to his relentless pace and pressure. As a result, Cannonier would prefer 25 minutes on the clock against the undefeated Chechen.
“They really want to push him to the title,” Cannonier said. “He really wants to get to the title, and I’m right here. I shouldn’t have to say, ‘Hey, I want a title shot.’ It’s clear and evident that the ass I’ve been kicking says that I want the title shot. So, if it’s not going to be the title next, I will definitely fight the next guy in line. And if it’s Khamzat, let’s make that happen. Let’s do a fiver – let’s see what he’s got in five rounds.”
Cannonier’s only loss in his last five outings was a failed gold bid against Israel Adesanya in 2022. “The Killa Gorilla” has since bounced back with consecutive wins over Sean StricklandMarvin Vettori.