Bulldog Fight Night 9 Promotional Poster
Khamzat Chimaev took the UFC by storm last year. After an extended hiatus, he returned to the promotion last month and was just as dominant. On Friday, "Borz" will return to his wrestling roots against fellow UFC fighter Jack Hermansson. The 187-pound bout at Bulldog Fight Night 9 will be a rare contest between UFC contracted competitors outside the promotion, and it will take place under freestyle rules.
The card, which takes place in Gothenburg, Sweden, is co-headlined by a boxing match between Swedish Olympic boxer and former IBF title challenger Anthony Yigit taking on Miroslav Serban, but it is the wrestling match that is getting all the attention.
In a recent interview with MiddleEasy, Hermansson detailed how the bout came together.
"At first, it was meant to be just a 'show bout,' and I said let's do it, but make it a real fight instead with a winner and everything," he said. "I think that is a little more exciting for the fans. I certainly would not tune in to a show bout. It is much more interesting if the guys are really battling for something. I wanted it to be a real wrestling match, and they agreed… I've never done a freestyle match, at all, ever. This is going to be my first one ever, so that is interesting."
Chimaev was born in Chechnya and competed in his native Russia as a junior. He reportedly won a Russian national championship on the Junior level before eventually relocating to Sweden in 2013. In his new country, Chimaev quickly established himself on the national level. He won three national championships with his most recent one coming in 2018 at 92 kg.
On his way to the national title in 2018, Chimaev outscored his opposition 37-0 and scored 10-0 match termination victories in all but the finals. There, he defeated Albin Frid via a 7-0 score.
While still wrestling at the national level, Chimaev made his amateur MMA debut in 2017. After three stoppage victories, he made his professional debut in 2018. He then began his career with six-straight wins and signed with the UFC in 2020.
In the Octagon, Chimaev has relied on his wrestling prowess. He has landed four takedowns in his four-fight UFC career and held control positions for 93% of his fight time. Not only has his wrestling helped him offensively, but it has prevented his opponent from even getting on track. Chimaev has absorbed only two strikes in the UFC.
Chimaev returned from an extended layoff last month against Chinese fighter Li Jingliang. Many expected the bout to be his toughest test to date. However, Chimaev closed the distance almost immediately, elevated his opponent, completed the takedown and finished the fight on the floor soon after. During the takedown, he made time to yell at UFC president Dana White who was seated cageside.
Hermansson also came up wrestling, but his main focus was on the Greco-Roman side of things. The Swedish competitor reportedly won a national championship in the style before transitioning to MMA in 2009.
After building a 13-2 record, which included a pair of losses in Bellator, Hermansson signed with the UFC in 2016. So far in the Octagon, he has gone 9-4, with signature victories coming over David Branch, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Kelvin Gastelum.
Hermansson has also made use of his wrestling in the UFC. He has averaged 2.09 takedowns per 15 minutes of fight time, and 26% of his landed significant strikes have come on the ground. In his last fight against Edmen Shahbazyan this past May, he landed three of his six takedown attempts and held control positions for a little over seven minutes in the 15-minute fight.
In the bout, Chimaev has to be the favorite. He was much more accomplished in freestyle as a competitor, while Hermansson's background is in Greco. On top of that, Hermansson also admitted in a recent interview that most of his freestyle training has come since he converted to MMA. Chimaev did miss a lot of time recently after an extensive bout with Covid. However, he seemed to be back in proper form in his last fight against Jingliang.
There is limited footage available from Chimaev's wrestling career, and it is hard to take anything from much of it due to the level of competition. However, the available clips do indicate that he has a flair for the dramatic. Even if the match appears to be a bit of a mismatch, it will likely entertain the locals in Gothenburg.
In addition to the wrestling main event, the card will also feature boxing, Muay Thai, and MMA bouts. The various styles imply that the event will likely take place in a ring, which offers wrestling fans the rare opportunity to see a match between the ropes. While it would be considered a novelty these days, it was actually quite common in the 1920s and 1930s.
While the UFC signs all their fighters to exclusive contracts, they have made exceptions for some one-off wrestling matches. Back in 2004, Daniel Cormier had a retirement bout of sorts against fellow Oklahoma State alumnus Chris Pendelton at the UFC Fan Expo, shortly after making his UFC debut Ben Askren headlined Beat the Streets 2019 against Jordan Burroughs and most recently current UFC bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling had a freestyle and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu two-match series against Penn State's Roman Bravo Young at NLWC IV .