The Chechen star's surge up the rankings may have hit its first roadblock at UFC 279
Khamzat Chimeav was poised to claim the biggest win of his career at UFC 279 in Las Vegas last weekend, but his missing weight on the eve of his contest with Nate Diaz saw him deposed from the main event, branded a 'scared rookie', and drew the considerable ire of UFC president Dana White.
The Chechen-born fighter eventually turned in another dominant performance in a short-notice replacement fight, improving his unbeaten record to 12-0, but the deviation from the UFC's script could well leave Chimaev with some work to do to regain his momentum – and the UFC's faith in him.
What happened exactly?
The UFC and Dana White had set the scene for Khamzat Chimaev to triumph in his pay-per-view main event debut, with promotional veteran Nate Diaz cast in the role of sacrificial lamb on his way out the exit door as he seeks pastures new.
Chimaev was an overwhelming favorite ahead of the fight with Stockton's Diaz and was forecasted to scythe through his biggest named opponent on what was without question the Chechen-born Swede's biggest platform to date.
It wasn't to be.
Chimaev came in heavy on the scales by a mammoth 7.5lbs on the eve of the fight, all but ensuring that his showdown with Diaz would be scrapped and prompted the UFC to scramble to salvage the event at the eleventh hour.
Chimaev, 28, explained afterwards that medics had informed him to discontinue his weight cut at 4am local time, with White later telling the media that Chimaev had begun to display health concerns as he attempted to cut to the welterweight limit.
Chimaev, however, maintains that he would have made the contracted weight had he not been ordered to stop by doctors.
How did the scenes affect the UFC 279 fight card?
Diaz was instead placed into a fight with fellow veteran Tony Ferguson in the new, hastily-arranged headliner, while Chimaev was moved into a 180lbs catchweight contest with Kevin Holland – a fighter with whom Chimaev had become involved in a fracas two days before UFC 279, and which forced the cancelation of the pre-fight press conference.
Chimaev's weight miss also trickled down to further bouts, with China's Li Jingliang – who was Ferguson's initial opponent – instead placed into a catchweight contest with Holland's scheduled foe, Daniel Rodriguez, despite 'The Leech' weighing in a full 10lbs lighter than 'D-Rod'.
Any further effects that Chimaev's weight miss may or may not have had will be revealed in time, such as whether or not the UFC hit its expected sales rate for the pay-per-view event, which had been largely marketed around Chimaev's showdown with Nate Diaz.
Ultimately though, the Diaz versus Ferguson clash was feted as a worthy replacement bout between two icons of the sport, while Chimaev easily defeated Holland by first-round submission – but he didn't quite get the 'name' on his record that he or many of his fans would have desired.
What did Chimaev say about the fiasco?
Chimaev was largely unrepentant regarding his 7.5lbs of extra weight which forced the UFC into an unenviable and unexpected set of circumstances.
He was met with a cacophony of jeers when at the ceremonial weigh-ins late on Friday – the first time that Chimaev, who has surfed on a wave of enthusiasm since his UFC debut a little over two years ago, has met any considerable pushback from the legions of UFC supporters.
He responded to the boos by flashing his middle fingers in the general direction of the discontent – and made clear in the post-fight presser that he is entirely unconcerned by the reaction from fight fans.
“ You care about that s**t? I don’t care,” he said.
I care about my family. I care about my career. I care about my money. “So, what now? The people don’t leave me. One day they’re with me, one day they’re not with me.
So, I’m real, guys,” added Chimaev. “ I like people that are real. Not fake people going one way or going the other way.”
He also doubled down in his immediate
Hey, so what now, say something,” he said sternly to Joe Rogan, to a backdrop of boos from sections of the Vegas crowd.
This is Chechnya motherf**ker. I'm the most dangerous guy here, I've got guns for everyone, I'll kill everybody.
I don't care about that s**t [the weight miss], I'd kill that guy, I'll go through everybody. Let them come down, I'll give it to both guys, I'll fight both of them.
Nobody can stop me; if I die, I die in the cage. I didn't come here and make my weight but I tried my best. I'll die in the cage, I'll never leave the cage, this is my home.” What have other fighters said?
There are some fighters who you can miss weight against and they will say nothing. Nate Diaz is not one of those fighters.
Speaking moments after facing off with new opponent Tony Ferguson, whom Diaz clearly respects, the California let loose on Chimaev for supposedly being 'afraid' to fight him.
Tony’s been around a long time, we should have fought a long time ago,” said Diaz.
Khabib’s b***h a** was afraid of him just like this b***h a** motherf**ker was afraid of me yesterday. We punked his b***h a** in the back here and now he doesn’t make weight.
You guys already know what it is. Real [gangsters] come from California, America motherf**ker.” Diaz continued to rail against Chimaev in his post-fight press conference after defeating Ferguson in the new main event, referring to him as a “ lame, scared, boring rookie.
But I figured this motherf**ker is scared. He got punked, he got scared at the press conference. I knew that was going to happen. Elsewhere, welterweight contender Belal Muhammad wrote that Chimaev is “ young and dumb but he knows how to fight,” while another UFC fighter, Adrian Yanez, chastised Chimaev for his indiscretion on the scales.
Gotta make weight my guy,” he wrote online. What does this mean for Chimaev moving forward?
The Khamzat Chimaev hype train took a slight detour at UFC 279, of that there is no doubt, but the ease in which he disposed of Kevin Holland in the event's new co-main event showed that his skills remain a significant threat to fighters in two separate weight classes.
White had previously stated that Chimaev would earn a welterweight title shot with a win against Diaz, but one would assume that these plans have been delayed somewhat, given White's apparent annoyance at Chimaev's perceived unprofessionalism.
The UFC boss does not take kindly to fighters who miss weight; and even less so to fighters who miss weight and interrupt the UFC's promotional plans on the eve of a high-profile event.
Fighters have been released from the UFC for less, but Chimaev's status in the organization is not under threat – although whether or not he is permitted to continue in the welterweight division is something to keep an eye on.
It’s a problem,” White said of Chimaev after UFC 279.
That’s a problem that he missed weight. I don’t know. We’ve got to look at it and figure it out. What makes sense is for him to fight at [185lbs], so we’ll see.” Who will he fight next?
This is the million-dollar question. As noted, Chimaev had been in line for a welterweight title shot with a win against Diaz (and especially after beating former contender Gilbert Burns in a classic showdown back in April), but it remains to be seen what kind of currency the UFC sees in a win against Holland.
Furthermore, Leon Edwards' recent welterweight title win will likely result in an immediate rematch for former champ Kamaru Usman – something which would likely delay any Chimaev title shot until around next summer or so.
Of course, another route to currying favor with UFC fans would be a fight with promotional heel Colby Covington.
This would make sense from a rankings perspective and would pit two of the division's best wrestlers against one another, but Chimaev's troubles on the scales will have given the likes of Covington an in-built excuse to distance himself from the challenge.
Covington's own timetable remains unclear amid reports that he will not fight until his legal dispute with rival Jorge Masvidal is cleared up, following their March run-in outside a Miami steakhouse in which Masvidal was charged with aggravated battery and criminal mischief.
Chimaev has said that he would fight former heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar if that's the challenge placed in front of him, but faced with tests at both welterweight and middleweight, Chimaev says that he will chase whichever route to gold appears the quickest.
I’m going to take some other fight, and we will see what’s happening," he said last week of his next potential move.
Maybe Israel Adesanya or the other guy, [Alex] Pereira. Who wins that, maybe fight with them. I don’t know.”
But if indeed he fights Usman next, Chimaev is confident that he would see off the challenge of the welterweight icon.
If it will happen, it will be a big fight,” he predicted.
Everyone want to see that fight, because he’s almost the same kind of fighter like me. Good wrestling, good boxing, but his grappling is terrible. Leon Edwards took him down, take his back. If I take his back, I squeeze off his head. Everyone wants to see that fight.”
Everyone, with the potential exception of Dana White depending on how long Chimaev remains sequestered in his bad graces.