The Ultimate Fighting Championship isn’t having a banner week with plenty of drama and changes surrounding Saturday’s UFC 279 PPV, mostly caused by headlining welterweight Khamzat Chimaev. The Swedish fighter couldn’t wait until he entered the octagon to throw hands, first getting into a verbal altercation with middleweight Paulo Costa on Wednesday. He topped that by getting into a backstage brawl with Kevin Holland at the UFC 279 pre-fight press conference.
As a trifecta of fucking up, Chimaev missed weight by 7.5 pounds on Friday, an astronomical amount for a pay-per-view main event fighter that’s had months to prepare for the bout. Switching an entire card the day before fights is unprecedented as fight camps specialize for weeks on opponents’ tendencies and how to stop specific fighting styles like jiu-jitsu and kickboxing.
Chimaev was scheduled to fight Nate Diaz in UFC 279’s main event, the last fight on Diaz’s current UFC contract. It’s unclear what would happen contractually, as Diaz is scheduled to be a free agent after this weekend, if he doesn’t compete on Saturday. That led to drastic changes being proposed to the card. No official changes have been announced to the show yet, but the proposed changes would be Nate Diaz facing Tony Ferguson, Khamzat Chimaev actually fighting Kevin Holland inside the octagon, and Li Jingliang squaring off with Daniel Rodriguez.
The news conference where Chimaev fought Holland was canceled, the second such incident to happen in the world of combat sports this week. On early Monday, members of the All Elite Wrestling locker room, including former UFC competitor CM Punk, allegedly got into a backstage brawl, after Punk insulted several AEW wrestlers at a post-show scrum. Everyone involved in the fight was suspended by company CEO Tony Khan. The proposed changes to Saturday’s UFC card haven’t been announced by the company as of late Friday afternoon.
Chimaev was a -1000 favorite to beat Diaz, per Caesars Sportsbook, and is viewed as a rising star in the UFC. The company seemingly booked the 28-year-old him against Diaz to build Chimaev’s profile at the expense of a departing former star. At Friday’s weigh-in, Chimaev only shrugged his shoulders about coming in at 178.5 pounds. The UFC’s welterweight limit is 171.