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Inside UFC’s mad scramble to salvage UFC 279 after Khamzat Chimaev’s bad weight miss

LAS VEGAS — UFC president Dana White stated he by no means thought he’d be challenged professionally the best way he was as he tried to navigate the company through the COVD-19 crisis in 2020. The UFC was the primary main sports activities franchise to return to competitors after the pandemic started.

Then, Thursday and Friday occurred and, nicely, White had one other story so as to add to his ebook.

“This was type of like COVID another time all in at some point,” White stated, laughing, simply moments earlier than leaping on stage for the ceremonial weigh-ins for UFC 279 at T-Cell Enviornment.

When White woke up on Friday, the principle occasion was a welterweight bout between Nate Diaz and Khamzat Chimaev. Tony Ferguson was scheduled to fulfill Li Jingliang within the co-main occasion and Daniel Rodriguez was to fulfill Kevin Holland in a catchweight bout with a restrict of 180 kilos.

On the undercard, Chris Barnett missed the heavyweight restrict of 266 and got here in at 267.5 for his battle with Jake Collier. Then, Hakeem Dawodu was 149.5 kilos, 3.5 kilos over the 146-pound restrict for his featherweight bout with Julian Erosa. None of that, although, impacted White an excessive amount of. However when Chimaev hit the scales at 178.5, White was in for one in all his most tough days. His goal was 171, and he missed by 7.5 kilos.

After a lot angst, the cardboard was modified and Diaz and Ferguson will meet in the principle occasion. Holland and Chimaev will face off within the co-main occasion, which will even be 5 rounds, and Jingliang and Rodriguez will meet within the third battle down.

Complicating issues for White on Friday was the incident that occurred on the MGM Grand Thursday on the closing pre-fight information convention. A brawl broke out backstage that started between Chimaev and Holland. Finally, White stated all six fighters started brawling and there have been fights all through the backstage space. An absence of safety made it tough to get issues underneath management and led to the cancellation of the information convention.

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However when Chimaev was over by a lot on Friday, it was as much as Diaz whether or not he wished to face him. Diaz, who has stated it will seemingly be his closing UFC bout, had all of the playing cards since he made weight. He elected to not battle Chimaev, who has competed at 185, with such a weight drawback.

“We had everyone at [Apex, where the weigh-ins were held] and when that occurred, ideally, we might have gone backstage and gotten this labored out instantly,” White advised Yahoo Sports activities. “However we didn’t get this finished till 3 o’clock [Pacific time]. Guys had beefs with one another and there was numerous issues occurring, so it took time to work issues out.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 09: (L-R) Opponents Nate Diaz and Tony Ferguson face off during the UFC 279 ceremonial weigh-in at MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 09, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Nate Diaz will as an alternative face Tony Ferguson in the principle occasion of UFC 279 after Khamzat Chimaev missed weight for his or her welterweight bout. (Photograph by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

However the six primary fighters all agreed to compete. Jingliang has an 8.5-pound weight-disadvantage but he nonetheless opted to take the battle with Rodriguez. Ferguson had lengthy wished to battle Diaz, and Chimaev and Holland had weighed in inside a pound of one another.

“The factor on the press convention began between these two,” White stated of Chimaev and Holland. “And so it made sense to see if we might work that out.”

Holland, who had made weight for his initially scheduled battle with Rodriguez, posted a video on social media saying he wouldn’t battle Chimaev except it was 5 rounds and in the principle occasion. He received the five-rounder, however not the principle occasion, and that was ok for him to signal.

Requested on the ceremonial weigh-in if the match towards Chimaev was higher for him, Holland had an incredible response.

“F*** no, but it surely’s going to be a enjoyable one,” he stated.

Chimaev was roundly booed and gave the gang on the weigh-in a double chook when he was interviewed.

Ferguson, although, appeared to summarize the emotions of most followers when he stated, “Seize your popcorn and blue slushies, motherf***ers, as a result of we’re going to have some enjoyable.”

For White, it wasn’t a lot enjoyable on Friday. He raved concerning the work that Hunter Campbell, the UFC’s chief enterprise officer did, engaged on the contracts and the small print finished.

“Hunter was a stud, man, consider me,” White stated.

However so, too, have been the fighters, who all agreed to tackle new opponents with no coaching for them.

White stated as a result of every of them had particular calls for, it took some time to barter issues however that it was apparent from the early moments what ought to have been finished.

“While you have a look at the place we have been, and with what Khamzat weighed, the fights virtually made themselves,” White stated. “It was simply going by means of it with every of them and getting the whole lot taken care of. However Tony and Nate have been round for a very long time and other people have wished to see that battle without end. As I stated, Kevin and Khamzat had beef and so they received the factor on the press convention going, and so they weighed about the identical, in order that made sense. And ‘The Leech’ [Jingliang], what a f***ing stud that child is. Man, he didn’t care. He simply wished to battle.”

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