UFC’s Giga Chikadze hopes to bring ‘ninja style’ to Calvin Kattar – Press Enterprise

    Georgia is all the rage after Monday night’s College Football Playoff championship and October’s World Series victory by the Atlanta Braves.

    Giga Chikadze wants to put a different Georgia on the map. And the Huntington Beach featherweight by way of the former Soviet republic, as he has lately in his UFC career, is hoping to do it emphatically.

    “I mean, when you are ninja and you show up in your ninja mode in Octagon and do your thing in a ninja style?” Chikadze said with a chuckle. “That’s what happens, right?”

    Chikadze takes his swagger and unblemished UFC record into UFC APEX in Las Vegas on Saturday when he squares off against fellow title contender Calvin Kattar in the first card and main event of 2022.

    The former professional kickboxer has gone 7-0 since debuting in the UFC in 2019, but the key number here is nine. In MMA, Chikadze (14-2) is on a nine-fight win streak and has nine wins by knockout and nine first-round finishes.

    Kattar (22-5), meanwhile, is coming off his ninth UFC fight in what was expected to be a highlight-reel, featherweight contender clash a year ago 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 significant strikes, blasting past the mark of 290 he set against Brian Ortega at UFC 231, and landed 141 significant strikes in the fourth round alone, another UFC record for most in a single round.

    “It didn’t work out my way, but I finished that fight the way I started – on two feet, you know?” said Kattar, who lost the decision by scores of 50-43, 50-43 and 50-42. “Props to Max, he fought a hell of a fight. And I definitely walked away from that fight with, you know, an understanding of kind of what he’s doing and things I’ll take with me for not only this next fight, but future fights.”

    Chikadze, 33, has a lot of respect for his opponent’s striking – Kattar, also 33, has 11 wins by knockout and 10 first-round finishes – as well as his wrestling, acknowledging the Massachusetts native’s days as a standout high school wrestler.

    The big test, he says, will be Kattar’s resolve after being on the receiving end of such a brutal beating. “We’ll see how he’s gonna handle it, you know … let’s see mentally how strong he is,” Chikadze said.

    That trait is not in question when it comes to Chikadze. He uprooted his family from Georgia in March 2015 after spending time with a friend in Southern California and touring some of the gyms. Once he settled on Kings MMA in Huntington Beach, he continued kickboxing while starting to dabble 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 scorecards after two rounds but got caught in a rear-naked choke in the final minute to lose the fight and, what he thought, was his shot at the UFC.

    Later that night, Chikadze found himself at the same craps table at The Palms as White. The UFC president gave him some advice: Don’t worry. Get better at wrestling. Upgrade your ground game. You’ll be back.

    “So that’s exactly what I did,” Chikadze recalled. “After a few weeks, I went back in the gym, I signed up in high school wrestling classes. You know, the beginning wrestling ABCs to learn, then I joined jiu-jitsu kids’ class. That’s all the work that put me back in UFC.”

    Sure enough, after two quick wins on the Gladiator Challenge regional circuit, Chikadze was summoned by the UFC as a short-notice replacement. He came up with a split-decision win and followed it with another, then back-to-back unanimous decisions.

    Then in late 2020, something clicked. He got his first UFC finish with a first-round knockout of Jamey Simmons prompted by a head kick.

    “I found my timing, I found my style against wrestlers, not wrestlers, strikers, legends, whatever,” Chikadze said. “Whoever comes, I’m gonna finish him now.”

    Chikadze followed that with two big wins over two big-name opponents: a first-round liver kick to Cub Swanson led to a TKO finish in May, followed by a knee to the midsection that was the beginning of the end in the third round for Edson Barboza in August.

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