For now, Chaz Chambliss will keep fighting for Georgia Bulldogs

UGA linebacker takes part in world of mixed martial arts
Georgia outside linebacker Chaz Chambliss (32), pictured here during a recent spring football practice session in Athens, is giving serious consideration to a career after football as an MMA fighter. (Tony Walsh/UGA Athletic Association)

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

Georgia outside linebacker Chaz Chambliss (32), pictured here during a recent spring football practice session in Athens, is giving serious consideration to a career after football as an MMA fighter. (Tony Walsh/UGA Athletic Association)

ATHENS — Georgia’s Chaz Chambliss wants to play football as long as he possibly can. In all likelihood, he’ll be drafted by an NFL team after the 2024 season, his senior season.

But the 6-foot-2, 250-pound outside linebacker from Carrollton has an alternative plan for when football ceases to be an option. How about: Chaz Chambliss, MMA fighter?

MMA is an acronym for mixed martial arts. Chambliss already is quite accomplished in the increasingly popular sport, competing at the highest professional level, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Chambliss revealed Tuesday that for the past three years he has been training on the side as an MMA fighter.

He attends classes at least two to three times a week during the offseasons. Occasionally, he might slip in an MMA workout during seasons.

“I’ve been cross-training for the last three offseasons,” Chambliss told reporters Tuesday afternoon before the Bulldogs’ fourth practice of the spring. “Coach suggested it for hands and body-positioning and all that. I really like it.”

Chambliss did not specify whether it was coach Kirby Smart, position coach Chidera Uzo-Diribe or another assistant who suggested it. In any case, Chambliss really has taken to MMA and, by all accounts, is excelling at it. He has even contemplated turning professional in the sport.

Trouble is, he’s still pretty good at this football thing. For the time being at least, that’s paying the bills.

While Chambliss hasn’t necessarily emerged at Georgia as a football star in the classical sense, he did start all 14 games at outside linebacker for the 13-1 Bulldogs last season and has played in 26 of the other 30 games the previous two seasons as well. Over the past three seasons, he has compiled 47 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks at Georgia. So this football thing has kept him pretty busy.

For that reason and others, Chambliss has declined opportunity to try his hand at prizefighting. At the moment, he just spars.

“I’m just training,” Chambliss said. “I don’t know how it goes with the NCAA as far as (paying) bouts or anything like that. I don’t want to get in trouble that way. So, I’m just training and trying to carry over that in my game. Multiple pros have done it.”

Most recently, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby has trumpeted the football benefits reaped from training with MMA fighters. He regularly spars with UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland.

At least seven former NFL players have competed for money on the ultimate-fighting circuit. That includes former Georgia Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.

“I just think it’s helped my game tremendously,” Chambliss said.

Don’t worry fans, tackling the Bulldogs’ opponents remains Chambliss’ priority. As the undisputed leader in Georgia’s outside linebackers group this year, it remains his full-time work and passion. Chambliss said he took on MMA grappling mainly as a way to improve the hand-fighting component in football.

Outside linebackers are asked to do a lot, between rushing the passer, setting an edge on the perimeter, stuffing the run or dropping into pass coverage. Chambliss came to Georgia from Carrollton as more of a “thumper” seeking full-body contact.

“I have a tendency to want to use my head in striking blocks,” Chambliss said. “I want to get more separation because I realize in some games I would get caught up in some tackles because I let them get to my chest before I pressed them out.”

Chambliss said his primary focus being a leader to a bunch of young outside linebackers that are trying to get up to speed and help teammate Mykel Williams’ transition to regularly playing the “Jack” position.

“I had great leaders in front of me that taught me how to lead – Nolan (Smith), (Channing) Tindall, all those guys,” Chambliss said. “They taught me what it is to be a leader in that room. It’s not being over-controlling, but being somebody guys can look to for advice … and that comes with experience. You know, I’m just trying to take over that room and hold everybody accountable to what the standard is.”

Because Chambliss now is a grizzled senior who can squat 545 pounds and has bench-pressed 435, anyone encountering him would be well-advised to listen. That goes especially for opponents.