Sean Strickland nearly fought Khamzat Chimaev in Saudi Arabia before booking Paulo Costa fight at UFC 302

Sean Strickland nearly fought Khamzat Chimaev in Saudi Arabia before booking Paulo Costa fight at UFC 302

Before Sean Strickland booked his June 1 clash with Paulo Costa, the UFC was looking to book a bout between the former middleweight world champion and undefeated Chechen monster Khamzat Chimaev.

Strickland’s coach, Eric Nicksick, told James Lynch during a recent interview that the promotion was targeting a fight between the two at UFC Saudi Arabia on June 22 before pivoting to Costa. According to Nicksick, the fight was scrapped due to travel-related issues on Strickland’s side.

“I know they [UFC] were hoping for maybe Khamzat, but I don’t think Sean can travel to Saudi Arabia or something; I’m not 100% sure,” Nicksick said. “But I know Khamzat’s name was possibly kicked around. Khamzat is going to be a big draw in Saudi, and that fight is more about location than it was about the opponent, in my opinion” (h/t Sportskeeda).

Instead, Khamzat Chimaev will face Robert Whittaker when the UFC makes its promotional debut inside Kingdom Arena in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh next month.

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Robert Whittaker vs. Khamzat Chimaev

Sean Strickland and Paulo Costa Desperately Seeking a Win at UFC 302

Three weeks before ‘Borz’ steps back inside the Octagon, UFC 302 will emanate from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey with a one-two punch of can’t-miss fights — chief among them being a massive lightweight world title headliner pitting reigning and defending 155-pound champion Islam Makhachev against division staple Dustin Poirier.

Islam Makhachev vs. Dustin Poirier

In the co-main event, fans will see Sean Strickland look to bounce back after surrendering the middleweight strap to Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 297 in January. Standing in Strickland’s way of a return to the win column will be Paulo Costa, a Brazilian star determined to climb his way back into the title picture after falling short against Robert Whittaker in February.

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Sean Strickland vs. Paulo Costa

Costa’s last win inside the Octagon came in August 2022 during an oddly entertaining scrap with another former 185-pound titleholder, Luke Rockhold.

Costa vs. Rockhold