The Swedish welterweight was previously scheduled to face Nate Diaz in the headline bout at T-Mobile Stadium. On Friday morning, Khamzat Chimaev stepped onto the scale weighing 178.5 pounds for his showdown with the Stockton native. With the bout scheduled for the welterweight non-title limit of 171 pounds, the fight was essentially dead. UFC 279 was already heavily criticized for being a rather weak card on paper, especially when asking fans to pay $75.00 to watch it. It was imperative that Dana White and the company do something to “save” the event. Luckily for fight fans, the UFC came through. In fact, many fans seem to be more intrigued by what we’re getting versus what we were originally promised.
In a UFC first, Dana White held an emergency press conference to announce multiple changes made to Saturday night’s main card.
“It’s been a hell of a night and a hell of a morning,” White said on ESPN SportsCenter’s Instagram. “It’s not by coincidence that we stack guys the same weight on the same card in case anything goes wrong, but yeah, it worked out.”
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) September 9, 2022
The new main event will be Nate Diaz vs. Tony Ferguson in a welterweight scrap as both fighters successfully made weight. Ferguson’s previous opponent Li Jingliang will now meet Daniel Rodriguez. As a result of that match-up, Rodriguez’s previously scheduled opponent Kevin Holland will step in to meet Khamzat Chimaev in a five-round co-main event bout.
“Obviously, when something like this happens, you got guys that trained for another guy for a long time,” said White. “Getting these guys to agree to different fights can be a little tough sometimes, but we got ’em all done, they’re locked in.”
Is Khamzat Chimaev The Hero or The Villain of UFC 279?
As news broke that Nate Diaz would be facing fellow fan favorite in an effort to save the UFC 279 card, many fans online rejoiced. The original pairing of Nate Diaz and Khamzat Chimaev had many convinced the UFC was trying to punish Diaz on his way out of the company after 15 years of service. Now Diaz will face an opponent that simply makes more sense to fans and fellow fighters.
“Nate Diaz and Tony, like you said, the fans have wanted to see this one forever,” White said. “It’s gonna happen now before Nate leaves the UFC.
“Yesterday, there were a lot of questions about what happened. Kevin Holland and Khamzat Chimaev actually got into it yesterday backstage. Ironically, they will now fight on Saturday night, and ‘Leech’ vs. Rodriguez is also a fun fight. So, it literally couldn’t have played out any better.”
With the lineup change being embraced by the fanbase, should fans be thanking Khamzat Chimaev? As the Chechnyan-born fighter stepped off the scale with a smile on his face, many fans were upset with the perceived lack of respect for the UFC and his opponent. Especially after details came out about Khamzat Chimaev eating and drinking all night in a nearby restaurant the night before weigh-ins.
In the end, the UFC put together a card that fans are quite happy with based on the reaction on social media. Fortunately, things worked out, but not before a bit of sabotage from the budding welterweight star.
Backstage at Thursday night’s UFC 279 press conference, it was reported by Ariel Helwani that Khamzat Chimaev had instigated a brawl with Kevin Holland causing a significant delay in the event. Holland and his original opponent Daniel Rodriguez came out as a pair to field questions. As that was going on in front of the camera, Nate Diaz and his team reportedly got into a scuffle with Khamzat Chimaev and his team backstage causing further chaos. That prompted the UFC President to cancel the press conference for the first time in promotional history.