The Ultimate Fighting Championship not a banner week with lots of drama and changes around Saturday UFC 279 PPV, mostly caused by heavyweight welder Khamzat Chimaev. The Swedish boxer couldn’t wait until he stepped into the octagon to throw his hand, having a verbal argument with middleweight Paulo Costa for the first time on Wednesday. He topped that off when he got into a backstage brawl with Kevin Holland at UFC 279’s pre-fight press conference.
As a trio of damnation, Chimaev lost 7.5 pounds on Friday, a terrible amount for a pay-per-view main event boxer who had months to prepare for the bout. Swapping an entire card the day before a match is unprecedented as fight camps specialize in opponents’ trends for weeks and how to prevent specific fighting styles like jiu-jitsu and kickboxing.
Chimaev was scheduled to face Nate Diaz in the main event of UFC 279, the final bout of Diaz’s current UFC contract. It is unclear what will happen under the contract, as Diaz is expected to become a free agent after this weekend, if he does not play on Saturday. That led to the proposed drastic changes to the tag. No official changes have been announced for the show yet, but suggested changes would be Nate Diaz facing Tony Ferguson, Khamzat Chimaev actually facing Kevin Holland inside the octagon, and Li Jingliang facing off against Daniel Rodriguez.
The press conference where Chimaev played against the Netherlands has been cancelled, the second such incident to occur in the world of combat sports this week. Early Monday, members of the All Elite Wrestling locker room, including former UFC rival CM Punk, allegedly got into a fight backstage, after Punk insulted several AEW wrestlers during a post-show brawl. Everyone involved in the fight was suspended by company chief executive Tony Khan. The proposed changes to Saturday’s UFC tag were yet to be announced by the company late Friday afternoon.
According to Caesars Sportsbook, Chimaev is the -1000 favorite to beat Diaz and is seen as a rising star in the UFC. The company appears to have pitted the 28-year-old against Diaz in order to build Chimaev’s profile at the expense of being a departing former star. At Friday’s weigh-in, Chimaev just shrugged when he was about to hit 178.5 pounds. The UFC weight limit is 171.