Emmett (18-4 MMA, 9-4 UFC) enters the featherweight fight with Chikadze (15-3 MMA, 8-1 UFC), which takes place Dec. 16 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and airs on ESPN2 prior to the pay-per-view main card and following early prelims on ESPN+, on the first two-fight losing skid of his more than 12-year career.
At 38, there are questions about whether Emmett is falling off, or he just ran into the absolute elite of the division in a unanimous decision defeat to Ilia Topuria at UFC on ABC 5 in June, as well as a second-round submission loss to Yair Rodriguez in an interim title bout at UFC 284 in February.
Chikadze tends to lead toward the latter, and that’s why he’s not underestimating Emmett whatsoever entering fight night.
“For me, I didn’t really pay attention where he’s coming from, because I know he’s a top 10 fighter,” Chikadze told MMA Junkie Radio. “He’s a very high-level athlete and I know that I have to be ready for my opponent’s best version. So, I’m coming from the win, but all this doesn’t matter for me. It’s a really important fight on the table for me.”
Chikadze, No. 13 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie featherweight rankings, says No. 7-ranked Emmett would still be a valuable win for his career as he looks to build toward a title shot.
The Georgian fighter is determined to make another run to the belt, which he was well on his way to doing before his nine-fight winning streak was snapped by Calvin Kattar at UFC on ESPN 32 in January 2022. After 18 months off to recover from injuries, Chikadze returned in August to outwork Alex Caceres for a unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 225.
A victory at UFC 296 would put him back on a streak, and Chikadze knows how significant that is.
“I’m not fighting only for the money here,” Chikadze said. “I’m fighting to reach my goal to become a champion from Georgia, to make my people proud, to make my community proud. It’s been a dream for all my life and that’s why I’m inside the UFC, in the best organization, to become the best fighter.”
Chikadze, 35, will be looking to put his decorated striking background to use when he enters the octagon with Emmett. Whether that will lead to a knockout remains to be seen, but with the stakes involved in this particular fight, he will be happy getting his hand raised in any fashion.
“I’m always looking for the knockout in the fights,” Chikadze said. “I enjoy making that happen, and also that’s what I’m known for. I’m a knockout artists, and every time I step into the octagon that’s what I’m trying to make it happen. But at the same time, the win is very important in this fight.
“He’s very experienced, he fought for a title – everyone who’s beat him has fought for a title, or is fighting for the title. I know this fight means a lot, so I’ve got to win. Any type of win, I’ll take it.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 296.