There's more at stake than usual for Khamzat Chimaev at Saturday's UFC Fight Night.
In a rare move, UFC president Dana White has said that if the red-hot prospect defeats middleweight veteran Gerald Meerschaert in Las Vegas, he'll move on to face former title challenger Demian Maia later in 2020.
It doesn't sit well with Meerschaert that the promotion is already thinking about what's next for Chimaev before GM3 even has a chance to pull off the upset.
"It definitely rubs me the wrong way," he told theScore. "I'm not going to lose sleep over it. It's not going to negatively affect me. If anything, it's just fuel to the fire. When I see something like that, I'm like, 'Oh, you really think that this is gonna be easy enough for him that not only is he gonna win, but he's gonna be able to fight in a month? OK, we'll see how that works out for you.'"
Chimaev turned heads in his first two UFC appearances this past summer on Fight Island. The Sweden resident mauled both of his opponents in the span of 10 days, breaking the record for the quickest turnaround in UFC history. He outstruck John Phillips and Rhys McKee 192-2 combined, and fans immediately compared him to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
White said earlier in September that he wouldn't usually double-book a fighter, but he was willing to make an exception for Chimaev because he wants to stay active and because White was impressed by the 26-year-old's first two bouts in the UFC. White said he doesn't believe the decision is disrespectful to Meerschaert.
Though Meerschaert feels like White is getting ahead of himself by targeting a fight between Chimaev and Maia before Saturday's contest even takes place, he understands why White is doing it.
"I get it," Meerschaert said. "You like him. He's undefeated. He looks like Khabib, fights like Khabib. You want to try to make as much money as you can and build a superstar. I'd do the same thing. I don't blame you, Dana. But it's me, so of course I'm going to have a problem with it."
Meerschaert is impressed by Chimaev's pair of victories, but he questions the level of competition that the prospect has faced up until now.
"For right now, he looks good. He's done everything he's supposed to," Meerschaert said. "But he's gotta fight somebody who can do what he does and beat him and his own game."
Meerschaert added: "(Chimaev) has got plenty of potential. He's young, he's hungry, and I think he's going to be very mentally tough. I think I can break him, but it's not going to easy. When you've won every fight you had and you insist on doing what you want to do like he does, yeah, you're gonna be a tough guy to handle."
The 32-year-old said it's been pretty easy to prepare for the fight against Chimaev, since he knows exactly what his opponent is going to try to do: Take him down.
Meerschaert, who has 44 pro fights compared to Chimaev's eight and is also a specialist on the ground, sees himself ending his opponent's night with a submission.
"I might hurt him on the feet," Meerschaert said, "but I think I'm going to force him in a position to take a bad shot and I'm going to take his neck."