Although Saturday night’s UFC 279 main event was supposed to have been the second half of a welterweight doubleheader between No. 3 contender Khamzat Chimaev (11-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) and unranked Nate Diaz (20-13 MMA, 15-11 UFC), this will no longer be the case.
It’s certainly been a chaotic 24 hours for MMA’s top promotion, and to best understand how the countdown to the UFC 279 main event got to this crazy point, it’s time to turn back the clock to roughly 4 pm PT Thursday afternoon.
UFC 279 Pre-Fight Press Conference Scrubbed Before It Starts Amid Backstage Brawl
Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena was scheduled to have been the host venue for Thursday’s UFC 279 pre-fight press conference, but a backstage brawl ensued, forcing UFC President Dana White to cancel the scrum altogether.
The decision to cancel the press conference late Thursday marked the first time in the nearly 30-year history of the UFC that such an event was called off before it had the chance to begin.
White informed a booing audience that the show would not be going ahead.
“This ain’t going to happen. I apologize, everybody,” White said. “I am in very weird waters here. This has never happened in the history of this company, trust me when I tell you this is the right decision not to do this press conference right now. For everybody’s safety, this is the right decision. I apologize.”
At the time of the press conference’s aftermath, Dana White informed the media that no fighters were in need of medical attention, no disciplinary action was to be taken by the UFC, and that Saturday’s UFC 279 (main card 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT on ESPN+) would go on as slated with its originally-advertised 13-fight card.
In addition, White affirmed that extra security measures would be taken for all remaining events on the fight week itinerary, including the UFC 279 main event.
The Brawl, Detailed
Initially, Khamzat Chimaev and Kevin Holland engaged in a confrontation over posts that Holland had made about Chimaev over the Internet, including wanting to shave his beard, something deemed forbidden according to Muslim tradition, resulting in Holland kicking Chimaev in the chest.
In order to alleviate the tension of the situation, Li Jingliang, who was set to face Tony Ferguson on Saturday night in the originally-scheduled UFC 279 co-main event, helped Chimaev retreat from Holland.
Subsequent to that, Nate Diaz entered the lobby of the MGM Grand Garden Arena and another war of words broke out, with water bottles being thrown between Diaz and Chimaev.
Chimaev Comes In 7 1/2 lbs. Over Welterweight Nontitle Maximum For UFC 279 Main Event
Fast-forward approximately 15 hours to 9 am PT Friday, when the UFC Apex facility played host to the official UFC 279 weigh-ins.
It was by no means a banner day for Khamzat Chimaev, who weighed in for the UFC 279 main event on Saturday night at 178 1/2 lbs., 7 1/2 lbs. over the maximum allowable weight for a nontitle main event at welterweight.
Nate Diaz, however, weighed in on-target at 171 lbs. even.
Chimaev was one of three fighters during the UFC 279 weigh-ins on Friday morning to come in over the maximum allowable weight for a nontitle fight.
Previously, Hakeem Dawodu missed the 146-lb. featherweight nontitle maximum for his fight against Julian Erosa by 3 1/2 lbs. and will thus lose a minimum of 20 percent of his purse to Erosa.
In the heavyweight division, Chris Barnett missed weight by 2 1/2 lbs. for his fight versus Jake Collier.
As a consequence, Barnett will lose at least 20 percent of his purse to Collier.
Khamzat Chimaev’s Miss Due to Weight Cut Issues
Upon Khamzat Chimaev failing to make weight for the original UFC 279 main event on Saturday, those closest to the situation in Las Vegas said that Chimaev was unable to properly cut weight ahead of the official weigh-in, with the live broadcast of the weigh-in alluding to a potential miss.
With Chimaev missing weight on Friday, Nate Diaz stated he did not wish to face an opponent weighing in at over 171 lbs.
UFC Shuffles Card and Gets New UFC 279 Main Event
The events of the UFC 279 weigh-in left the status of the original UFC 279 main event in serious doubt, leading to the promotion doing some 11th-hour shuffling to keep Saturday night’s card on the schedule.
Aaron Bronsteter of Canada’s TSN reported Friday afternoon that Daniel Rodriguez (16-2 MMA, 6-1 UFC) agreed to a fight vs. Li Jingliang during UFC 279 on Saturday, pending an agreement to the contest by the latter.
Subsequently, reports surfaced that Kevin Holland and Khamzat Chimaev would fight in a restructured co-main event this weekend, but Holland had strict terms and conditions for the fight to take place.
“New fight terms. I’m only taking the fight if it’s the main event and if it’s five rounds,” Holland said on Instagram. “Other than that, I’m not fighting, boom, gone.”
Finally, it looks as though a new UFC 279 main event has been agreed upon, as Nate Diaz will fight Tony Ferguson, officially confirmed by Dana White early Friday evening in an Instagram Live, adding that both the co-main event and main event will be an advertised five rounds at five minutes per round to close the show.
“We’ve got ’em all done, they’re locked in,” White said on the stream.
Top Half of UFC 279 Main Card Changed and Final Thoughts
So, with all of the dust settled, this is how the top half of the UFC 279 main card looks now for Saturday:
- Welterweight Main Event: Nate Diaz vs. Tony Ferguson (Ferguson’s last bout on his current UFC contract)
- Catchweight Co-Main Event (180 lbs.): Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kevin Holland
- Catchweight Bout (180 lbs.): Li Jingliang vs. Daniel Rodriguez
Everything else on the restructured card is unchanged from the original version of UFC 279.
Not since the infamous incident where Conor McGregor threw a dolly from a bus window in Brooklyn on the day before UFC 223 in April of 2018 has the promotion experienced a hectic period like the one between Thursday and Friday evening.
Dana White and his team were undoubtedly dealt a bad hand and were thus tasked with reconstructing a portion of the event, but they handled it well and should be commended.
In spite of everything that has happened since late Thursday, UFC 279 is ready to go for Saturday night.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images