Michael Chiesa returns to the octagon on Wednesday when he takes on Neil Magny in the battle of the surging welterweights.
Both men enter the contest on three-fight win streaks and a fourth could tip them into the top five of the division.
The UFC is back on Fight Island as Michael Chiesa and Neil Magny prepare to face off
Of course, like any UFC division, that’s where the killers live.
Kamaru Usman reigns as the champion, but guys like Leon Edwards, Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington and Gilbert Burns make up the top five, and then you’ve got Stephen Thompson and Tyron Woodley being active too.
Chiesa headlines the second night of Fight Island here in Abu Dhabi prior to Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier’s meeting on Saturday, but the 33-year-old has experience against a guy like Masvidal.
When talkSPORT had the chance to speak to Chiesa on Fight Island, we asked about his encounter with ‘Gamebred’ and if he saw him becoming the superstar he has become back when they met in 2013.
Michael Chiesa and Jorge Masvidal went at it back in 2013Getty Images – Getty
“There’s a reason why I’m getting into these roles as a fight analyst, because I’m a huge fight nerd.
“I got into that Jorge Masvidal fight because my original opponent got in some law trouble and got pulled from the fight. So Joe Silva, he calls me with some names and I didn’t like them.
“At the time I’m undefeated and thinking I can beat anybody. I’m like ‘I want the list of everybody available.’ Jorge Masvidal was on the list.
“Back then, a lot of people didn’t know who he was, but I’m looking at it like this is a guy that fought for the Strikeforce title, this guy is super tough, this guy beat Yves Edwards – In my opinion Yves Edwards is one of the best lightweights of all-time – I’m like this guy is in the UFC now, this is the guy I want to fight. This is the best guy available and I’ve always recognised his skills,” Chiesa said.
Masvidal, a renowned striker, submitted Chiesa in the second round.
After winning the first round, Chiesa was caught by Masvidal in the secondGetty Images – Getty
“We all saw how the fight panned out… I had a great first round! One of the best first rounds of my life. But he got the best of me,” Chiesa explained.
Masvidal had a banner year in 2019 after knocking out Darren Till in London, recording the fastest KO in UFC history on Ben Askren and then becoming the BMF champion against Nate Diaz.
That launched him into superstar status after an already distinguished career. So was Chiesa surprised to see his rise?
“It didn’t surprise me at all. He deserves to have the success that he has because he trains hard, he’s put his time in the sport and it’s good to see him breakout and become the superstar that he is now.
Chiesa took the fight to Masvidal in the summer of 2013Getty Images – Getty
“I knew he had the skills back then, but there’s a certain amount of luck in this sport that’s required to get to the next level. It takes a Chris Weidman injury to get Michael Bisping into a title fight. It takes a flying knee KO of Ben Askren, you know?
“You can be the hardest working guy in the gym, but there’s always going to be a certain element of luck that’s going to be required to get you to the next level and I’m glad that he found that.
“It’s cool to see him where he’s at in his career and to say I got to share the octagon with him is a true honour, he’s a hell of a fighter,” Chiesa said.
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