Khamzat Chimaev appeared to announce his retirement from MMA three weeks after lingering COVID-19 symptoms forced him to withdraw from UFC Vegas 21. But UFC President Dana White said the rising UFC welterweight star is actually readying for a June comeback.

Chimaev wrote on Instagram (translated from Russian), “Thank you all so much for supporting me in my journey in this sport. I think I’m done.” He added that while he didn’t win a title, “it’s not the most important victory in this life.”

“It may upset you, but my heart and body tell me everything,” he wrote.

Later, Chimaev posted a picture on his Instagram story that showed a spray of what appeared to be blood in a sink.

“The main thing is I do not know what this disease is but it is not easily outlived,” he wrote in a message translated on Reddit.

Multiple messages to Chimaev’s management and the UFC weren’t immediately returned. But White subsequently told MMA Junkie that he’d spoken to the fighter and clarified his plans. The UFC recently flew Chimaev to its home city of Las Vegas for treatment, and White said the fallout of his recovery motivated the apparent retirement post.

“When he got here, the doctors took care of him, and they put him on prednisone, which is a nasty f*cking steroid,” White said. “So he’s on prednisone, and he’s supposed to be taking this thing and chilling, relaxing, and letting himself recover. He went in and f*cking trained today, felt like sh*t, and got super emotional and posted that.

“He’s not supposed to be training, but you know, this guy’s a savage. He wants to fight like every f*cking weekend, and now he can’t even train, so he just got emotional and posted that, but he ain’t quitting.”

According to his reps, Chimaev has been hospitalized multiple times after being stricken with multiple health issues, receiving antibiotics for bronchitis. In a behind-the-scenes video, his manager, Majdi Shammas, said the fighter started coughing after two rounds of work in preparation for the March 13 fight in Las Vegas. He was later taken to a local hospital; Shammas said the fighter later told him he thought he was going to die.

Announcing Chimaev’s scratch, White said the 26-year-old star was suffering from an issue with his lungs. It was the third time the bout had been cancelled after a COVID-19 positive nixed Edwards from a UFC Vegas 17 booking and complications from the virus ruled Chimaev out of UFC Vegas 19.

“He was flown out here so that we could take care of him,” White said. “We get him taken care of. They got him on medication. He’s going to be fine, and he goes in and starts f*cking training. He’s not supposed to be training, and he’s super frustrated.

“He’s training when he’s supposed to be resting. He’s got to stay off, at least while he’s on this medication.”

Chimaev, a product of Allstars Training Center in Stockholm, rocketed to UFC fame on Fight Island, where he rattled off back-to-back stoppage wins at welterweight and middleweight in a span of 10 days. He followed that up two months later with a shocking one-punch knockout of Gerald Meerschaert that had him on the short list as a future title challenger.

The fight against Edwards, a welterweight standout on an eight-fight winning streak, appeared to be the gateway to contention for a fighter who captivated the attention of fans around the world.

Chimaev’s health issues underscore a sudden reversal of fortune and the seriousness of the virus, which has claimed over 2.5 million lives and left many “long haulers” with debilitating symptoms that leave them unable to resume normal life.

Here is Chimaev’s complete statement:

“I want to say thank you all so much for supporting me in my journey in this sport. I thinki I’m done, yes I know I didn’t take the belt but it’s not the most important victory in his life, it may upset you but my heart and body tell me everything. I want to say a big thank you to my team [Allstars Training Center]. I want to say a big thank you to UFC.”

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