Khamzat Chimaev out of UFC main event against Whittaker due to illness

The highly anticipated return of Khamzat Chimaev will have to wait.

The undefeated fighter was scheduled to headline the UFC’s first event in Saudi Arabia on June 22 against former champion Robert Whittaker. However, UFC President Dana White announced Thursday that Chimaev was pulled from the UFC on ABC 6 main event because he was “violently ill.”

Chimaev will be replaced by Ikram Aliskerov (15-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC), who was scheduled to face Antonio Trocoli in the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night at the UFC Apex.

Chimaev’s withdrawal marked the start of a roller coaster day for the promotion. Hours after the Chimaev news broke, UFC 303 lost its long-awaited headliner between Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler due to McGregor’s injury. Instead, Alex Pereira will defend his light heavyweight championship against Jiri Proch├ízka in the main event of this card.

Despite being given just over a week’s notice, the UFC didn’t have to look far to find a replacement for Chimaev, as Aliskerov, who has only lost to Chimaev in his career as MMA, answered the call. Aliskerov takes a huge competitive bump in his third UFC fight, going from unranked middleweight to former 185-pound champion. In Aliskerov’s last outing in October, he stopped Warlley Alves in the first round.

As for Chimaev, 30, his availability to compete has been an issue over the past two years following his meteoric rise following his 2020 debut. He has only competed once since submitting to Kevin Holland in September 2022 , with a majority decision victory over former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in October. Also in October, one of Chimaev’s coaches revealed that visa difficulties due to his Chechen nationality and Russian passport had prevented “Borz” from competing in the United States, leaving the UFC to find fight cards internationals for Chimaev.

The Saudi Arabia card was seen as the ideal event for Chimaev to make his return in what was likely a middleweight title eliminator against Whittaker. However, a photo from one of his training partners showed Chimaev in bed with an unknown illness. White noted that Chimaev was ill and wished him a healthy return.

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