Sean Strickland’s Coach Addresses Khamzat Chimaev Rumors & Paulo Costa Booking Concerns

Sean Strickland‘s head coach, Eric Nicksick, clarified that his previous statement about Strickland not being able to fight Khamzat Chimaev in Saudi Arabia was a guess and not a confirmed reason for the fight not happening.

Alright, let’s clear the air here. Eric Nicksick, Sean Strickland’s head coach, is setting things straight. And honestly, he shouldn’t have to.

So, Nicksick had a chat with Sportskeeda. They got talking about a possible fight between Strickland and the undefeated Khamzat Chimaev. Nicksick, who leads Xtreme Couture, made a joke. He said maybe Chimaev isn’t fighting Strickland because “Sean can’t travel to Saudi or something.” He wasn’t even sure about it.

But, you know how it goes in the MMA world. One quote gets twisted, and boom! It’s out of context. That’s exactly what happened here.

Now, Nicksick wants to clear the air. He told MMA Fighting, “I don’t know, that was my guess. It wasn’t like, ‘Sean’s not fighting because of this.’ I was like, ‘I’m guessing he probably can’t get into Saudi Arabia.’ It was more tongue in cheek.” He added, “I don’t freaking know. It was a hard time to even get into Australia.”

When asked about it, he said, “I’m not even 100 percent sure, but I’m guessing because he probably couldn’t get into Saudi.” And then everyone started saying that’s why the fight didn’t happen. He was like, “Oh man.” So, it was literally that. He had no idea, probably because of this.

“But Khamzat is going to be the draw in Saudi Arabia,” he said. He thinks it was more of a location set up than anything. And if there’s gonna be any hurdles getting Sean anywhere, then why risk putting him as a headliner on that card? It makes complete sense to him.

Nicksick did mention that the UFC approached him about a potential matchup between Strickland and Chimaev. At that time, his fighter was still the champ. But the matchup didn’t happen. Instead, Strickland went on to headline UFC 297 against Dricus du Plessis. It was a close five-round battle, and du Plessis captured the title via split decision.

“I know when Khamzat beat [Kamaru] Usman [at UFC 294], they wrote me and [said], ‘Hey, what’s the earliest you think you can have Sean ready to fight Khamzat?’” Nicksick recalled. He was like, oh… because that was gonna be the title fight. He told them, “He’s in the gym, we’ll be ready whenever you let us know.”

Then something happened with Khamzat. He got sick or had some issue. Nicksick can’t quite remember what it was, but it put Khamzat on the back-burner. And that’s why they ended up getting Dricus.

Chimaev is now headlining UFC Saudi Arabia on June 22. He’s up against former champ Robert Whittaker. This is Chimaev’s toughest test to date.

Strickland, on the other hand, has his next fight lined up. He’s facing Paulo Costa, a one-time title challenger, in a five-round co-main event at UFC 302. The event is on June 1 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Nicksick has been impressed with Costa lately. Even though Strickland is the higher ranked fighter and in a good place for the title picture, they see Costa as one of the toughest fights in the middleweight division.

“I was perfectly fine with it,” Nicksick said. He thinks Costa is a dangerous threat in the division and deserving of a fight like this. He was impressed with how good Costa looked against Whitaker. He didn’t think Costa won, but he was impressed nonetheless.

He said, “We’re a win away from another title fight, so it’s very important not to overlook Paula Costa. He’s a very dangerous opponent and we need to go out there and get the job done.”


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