Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Welterweight fighters Nate Diaz (left) and Tony Ferguson shake hands during a ceremonial weigh-in for UFC 279. Photo: AP

UFC 279: Nate Diaz to fight Tony Ferguson in new main event after chaotic Khamzat Chimaev scale fail

  • The line-up for Sunday’s main card looks completely different than it did 24 hours ago thanks to a colossal weight miss from rising star Chimaev
  • Drama caused opponent changes for six fighters, including Chinese welterweight Li Jingliang, who now meets Daniel Rodriguez

UFC 279 will be remembered as one of the most chaotic events in the company’s history, and that is not hyperbole.

One day after a skirmish erupted backstage at the customary pre-fight press conference, which was ultimately cancelled as a result, the event’s main card was completely transformed by weigh-in drama.

It all surrounded Chechen-based Swede Khamzat Chimaev, one of the UFC’s brightest young stars, who was slated to meet fan favourite veteran Nate Diaz in the card’s five-round welterweight main event.

Khamzat Chimaev poses on the scale during the ceremonial weigh-in for UFC 279 in Las Vegas. Photo: AP

When Chimaev stepped onto the scale on Friday morning in Las Vegas, he weighed in at 178.5 pounds – 7.5lbs above the welterweight limit, which Diaz hit exactly.

Chimaev’s scale fail, which freelance MMA reporter Ariel Helwani reported was because of a medical issue, thrust the card’s planned headliner into jeopardy, and sent UFC brass scrambling for a solution.

After hours of conspicuous silence, company president Dana White finally took to Instagram Live at 3pm local time to clear up the situation. The fallout was significant and far-reaching.

Nate Diaz poses on the scale. Photo: AP

Diaz will now meet former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson, who was slated to meet China’s Li Jingliang at welterweight in the co-main event, in the main card’s new headlining attraction, also at welterweight.

Chimaev will remain on the card, and will now meet American striker Kevin Holland at a 180-pound catchweight in the co-main event. Holland had been slated to meet Daniel Rodriguez at the same weight earlier on the main card. The American briefly rejected the idea of fighting Chimaev on social media, but was evidently convinced by the promotion.

Li and Rodriguez, finally, who were left without opponents by all of the chaos, will now meet at 180 pounds, despite the fact that they weighed in at 179 and 170.5 pounds respectively.

Khamzat Chimaev and Kevin Holland exchange words as UFC president Dana White keeps the fighters separated. Photo: AP

The 37-year-old American Diaz (20-13) will enter the new main event having lost his last two fights, first suffering a TKO via doctor stoppage against Jorge Masvidal, then losing a decision to Leon Edwards.

His 38-year-old foe Ferguson (25-7), also American, is winless in his last four. His skid began with a TKO loss to Justin Gaethje, and continued with decision losses to Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush, before he was knocked out by Michael Chandler in his last appearance.

Chimaev (11-0) is unbeaten in his first five fights in the UFC, and barring a decision victory over top-five welterweight Gilbert Burns in his last fight, has been incredibly dominant in each of those appearances.

The 28-year-old has long been hailed as a future champion at welterweight, though he will probably need to regain the UFC’s confidence after missing the division’s limit by so significant a margin.

Chimaev’s new foe Holland (23-7) has won his last two fights, both at welterweight, defeating Tim Means and Alex Oliveira by submission and knockout respectively. Those wins separated the 29-year-old from a pair of lopsided decision losses to Derek Brunson and Marvin Vettori up at middleweight.

Li (19-7), who is considered one of China’s most successful male fighters, is riding a knockout win over Muslim Salikhov. That victory separated the 34-year-old from a first-round submission loss to Chimaev. Both fights occurred at welterweight.

The 35-year-old American Rodriguez (16-2), who Li will meet in Ferguson’s stead, is riding a pair of decision wins over Mike Perry and Kevin Lee, and a stoppage of Preston Parsons, all at welterweight.