Li brandishes Chinese flag and roars at Chimaev as UFC rivals have to be held apart in savage final face-off before fight (VIDEO)

Khamzat Chimaev and Li Jingliang took their tops off and roared at each other in a clench-fisted final confrontation ahead of their UFC 267 battle on Saturday, with promotion president Dana White keeping the feuding pair apart.

The fierce aggression of the adversaries' head-to-head made sense given the grim insults they have traded in the build-up, including the characteristically unsparing Chimaev threatening to variously drop, choke, eat and decapitate the 33-year-old.

Li is keeping any intimidation that might cause well hidden, warning that he is thirsty to "drink some blood" when he takes on an opponent whose struggle to make the limit at the weigh in – Chimaev needed three attempts and the full allocated hour, amid claims from some fans that he was holding a towel in an attempt to fool assessors – might only increase his self-belief.

The more experienced man held the Chinese flag above his head before striding towards Chimaev, where the gurning scrappers raised their fists at each other, with only grinning White separating them.

Security men eventually stepped in as the staredown ended, leaving Li on stage longest, pointing a finger at Chimaev and beckoning him forward. The Chechen-born star responded in kind.

Unbeaten Chimaev's return to action after 13 months is one of the most anticipated aspects of the packed card in Abu Dhabi, and 'Borz' is clearly bristling to be back in the octagon after an absence enforced by a Covid infection that he feared would kill him and left him threatening to retire.

"I will beat him up," warned the hugely popular 27-year-old, emphasizing that he is fighting primarily to provide a good life for his mother before turning his attentions to Li's family.

"Maybe I will finish him by headbutt. I might be beating someone up while his mother is watching. His mother, brother or sister may be crying because of it.

"Unfortunately, life is like that. You have to beat someone to make money and live a good life."

While Chimaev rapidly rose to notoriety through those three quickfire wins he racked up in little more than two months in 2020, Li has been a UFC fighter for more than seven years, winning ten of his 14 fights including three successful stoppages in his last four bouts.

"Only my fists do the talking," he smiled, looking a model of self-assuredness. "This is mixed martial arts – anything can happen.

"I know his striking is good, his grappling is very good. We all have weaknesses. We are at the same level.

"My biggest weapon is my confidence. Whether it's winning or losing, I have a lot of good experience in the UFC. My age, my physical condition and my mental attributes are so good."

Fans who concur with bookmakers' verdicts that Chimaev is a huge favorite will also agree with his observation that his three previous UFC victims had confidence and promising records, including Meerschaert, who lasted 17 seconds despite being an established fighter.

Li has never been knocked out, and Chimaev will hope to have better luck on Fight Island than he did with the car he was thought to have been gifted by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Not long after Chimaev was pictured with Kadyrov and taking ownership of the vehicle, pictures emerged that purported showed it following a crash in Grozny.

"It's still damaged," said Chimaev. "My brother took it somewhere and I haven't seen it since.

"I only drove it one or two times, then my brother took it and a friend of his crashed it."

After a long wait, Chimaev knows another win will restart the engine on a stalled career that he is eager to continue at the breakneck speed with which it began.

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Khamzat Chimaev experienced weigh-in drama © YouTube / Red Corner MMA
Weigh to go: Chimaev accused of leaning on towel as star suffers scales drama ahead of 1st fight in 13 months at UFC 267 (VIDEO)

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