At UFC Vegas 35, Giga Chikadze is not only looking to move up a few spots in the featherweight division’s top-10 off a win over Edson Barboza, but he’s also planning to establish his place as one of the elite strikers in the entire sport.
Observers of the mixed martial arts are pumped for Saturday night’s main event, inside the UFC Apex, between the ninth and tenth ranked 145-pounders. It is a fight fans delight between two striking wonders who see the ground game as plans C and D. Chikadze (13-2) is just building his UFC legacy as he enters his seventh bout in the Octagon. However, after his 11 year run in the UFC, Barboza (22-9) will go down as one of the great striking talents in the sport’s history.
It’s why the 33-year-old sees the Aug. 28 fight as a chance to not only test the waters on what the highest levels of MMA striking can offer, but also prove that his background as a star in Glory Kickboxing makes him an inherently superior talent on the feet.
Giga Chikadze doesn’t expect to lose anywhere on the feet against Barboza at UFC Vegas 35
“People call him the best striker in MMA, in the UFC – until I come, and now I’m here. I have a chance to prove what I’ve said, and I’m excited, man. I’m really excited because the fans are going to enjoy it. Fans are going to remember this fight as one of the best fights,” Chikadze told MMAJunkie during the UFC Vegas 35 media day.
“I believe he’s going to come strong. I believe he’s going to bring his 100 percent game, but as I said, striking for MMA is one thing, but striking — highest-level striking — when you’re proven in a different sport, it’s different, man. … Of course, definitely, he’s a very good striker, but I don’t see the fight going anywhere that I can lose. I’m just being honest. We’ll see.”
Chikadze on Barboza: ‘He’s a bigger name than some of the top-five guys’
In May, Chikadze won his eighth straight fight, and sixth consecutive in the UFC. His technical knockout win over Cub Swanson was a monumental moment for the former kickboxing star, and it pushed him into the top-10 of the division’s rankings for the first time. For the follow-up to his win over Swanson, Chikadze hoped for a top-five opponent. While he did not get that, he views Barboza as the next best thing because of the name value the former lightweight contender has established after a memorable run in the UFC.
“Edson is a big name. He’s a bigger name than some of the top-five guys,” said Chikadze. “I was calling out top-five names because I wanted to move forward to the title quicker, faster. … I wanted to have a higher-ranked opponent, but Edson is a big name, and once I pass this challenge, then I’m ready for whatever, man — like even the highest level.”
UFC Vegas 35 takes place on Aug. 28 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event will kick off at 7 pm ET on ESPN+. Main card action follows at 10 pm ET and will simulcast on ESPN and ESPN+.