Georgia is all the rage after Monday night’s college football playoff championship and October’s World Series win by the Atlanta Braves.
Giga Chikadze wants to put a different Georgia on the map. And the Huntington Beach featherweight through the former Soviet republic, as he has done most recently in his UFC career, is hoping to do it vigorously.
“I mean, when you’re a ninja and you show up in your ninja mode in the Octagon and work your way up to ninja style?” Chikadze said with a laugh. “That’s how it happens, doesn’t it?”
Chikadze takes his swagger and immaculate UFC record at UFC APEX in Las Vegas on Saturday when he goes down against fellow title contender Calvin Katar in the first card of 2022 and the main event.
The former professional kickboxer has gone 7-0 since debuting in the UFC in 2019, but the crucial number here is nine. In MMA, Chikadze (14-2) is on a nine-fight win streak with nine wins by knockout and nine first-round finishes.
Dagger (22-5), meanwhile, is coming out of his ninth UFC fight in what was expected a year ago to be a highlight-reel, featherweight contender clash with former 145-pound champion Max Holloway. The result was a five-round, one-sided thrashing in which Holloway connected on a UFC-record 445 critical strikes, surpassing the 290 mark he set against Brian Ortega at UFC 231, and made 141 critical strikes in the fourth round alone. , another UFC record for most in a single round.
“It didn’t work out my way, but I ended the fight the way I started — on two legs, you know?” Said Katar, who lost the decision with scores of 50-43, 50-43 and 50-42. “Props to Max, he fought one hell of a fight. And I definitely walked away from that fight, you know, what’s he doing and things I’ll take with me, not just for this next fight , but rather future fights. ”
Chikadze, 33, has a great deal of respect for his opponent’s striking—33-year-old Katar has scored 11 wins by knockout and 10 in the first round—as well as his wrestling, the Massachusetts native’s days as an exceptional high school wrestler. accept as.
He says that after such a brutal beating, the determination of the fanatic will be the biggest test. “We’ll see how he handles it, you know… Let’s see how strong he is mentally,” Chikadze said.
That trait is not in question when it comes to the Chickadze. He moved his family from Georgia in March 2015 after spending time with a friend in Southern California and visiting a few gyms. After settling at Kings MMA in Huntington Beach, he continued kickboxing, starting dabbling in MMA.
In 2018, six months after ending his 46-fight kickboxing career, Chikadze fought for a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series. He was ahead on the scorecard after two rounds, but was caught in a rear-neck choke to lose the fight in the last minute and what he thought was his shot at the UFC.
Later that night, Chikadze finds himself at the same craps table as White in The Palms. The UFC president gave him some advice: Don’t worry. Get better at wrestling. Upgrade your ground game. you will come back
“So that’s exactly what I did,” Chikadze recalled. “After a few weeks, I went back to the gym, I signed up to high school wrestling classes. You know, beginning to learn the ABCs of wrestling, then I joined a class for jiu-jitsu kids. That’s it. That’s what brought me back to the UFC.”
Of course, after two quick victories on the Gladiator Challenge regional circuit, Chikadze was called upon by the UFC as a short-notice replacement. He came up with a split-decision victory and was followed by another, then one after another, unanimous decision.
Then at the end of 2020, something clicked. He got his first UFC finish with a first round knockout from Jamie Simmons with a head kick.
“I found my time, I found my style against wrestlers, wrestlers, strikers, legends, whatever,” Chikadze said. “Whoever comes, I will finish them now.”
Chikadze then went on to score two big wins over two big-name opponents: a first-round lever kick for Cub Swanson ended TKO in May, followed by a knee to midsection finish in the third round. Edson Barboza in August
Katar appreciates what Chikadze has done in his short time in the UFC, but believes his unbeaten ways are short-lived.
“Anyone who can go 7-0 in the UFC, they are doing something right,” Katar said. “He’s found a way to win, but I feel like I’m an opponent with a different ability than anyone he’s faced. And I think I’ve got the tools to beat him.”
UFC on ESPN 32
Main Function: Giga Chikadze (14-2) vs. Calvin Dagger (22-5)
Where: UFC Apex, Las Vegas
how to see: Preliminary Exam (2 p.m., ESPN+); Main Card (4 p.m.; ESPN/ESPN+)