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Chimaev out, Aliskerov steps in to face Whittaker at UFC Saudi Arabia

Chris Unger / UFC / Getty

Khamzat Chimaev is out of the UFC Saudi Arabia main event against Robert Whittaker on June 22 and has been replaced by Ikram Aliskerov, UFC CEO Dana White announced Thursday.

Chimaev withdrew from the highly anticipated matchup in Riyadh due to an illness.

The No. 10-ranked middleweight was looking to lock up a title shot with a win over Whittaker, a former champion. Chimaev is 7-0 in the UFC and coming off a majority decision win over former welterweight champ Kamaru Usman at UFC 294 last October.

"The persistent illness that Khamzat has been battling for major parts of training camp could not be cured in time," Chimaev's manager, Majdi Shammas, said in a statement obtained by MMA Junkie's Nolan King. "He has been in and out of hospitals several times. The condition has been kept within the team since everyone has been absolutely committed to finding a solution."

Chimaev has dealt with numerous health issues throughout his Octagon career dating back to 2020. He withdrew from back-to-back fights against Leon Edwards in 2021 because of lingering complications from COVID-19. "Borz" has fought just twice in the last two years.

Whittaker defeated Paulo Costa by unanimous decision at UFC 298 in February to get back on track from a knockout loss to current middleweight titleholder Dricus Du Plessis. "The Reaper" is ranked No. 3 in the division.

A highly touted prospect at 185 pounds, Aliskerov has a chance to shoot up to the top five and into title contention when he squares off against Whittaker. The 31-year-old Russian is 2-0 in the UFC with two first-round knockouts. Aliskerov isn't ranked in the division.

Aliskerov was scheduled to face Antonio Trocoli at Saturday's UFC Fight Night event in Las Vegas.

A stacked undercard will complement the Whittaker-Aliskerov bout at UFC Saudi Arabia, including Sergei Pavlovich versus Alexander Volkov at heavyweight and Johnny Walker versus Volkan Oezdemir at light heavyweight. The event will mark the UFC's first in the kingdom.

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