Wednesday, November 16, 2022

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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 mentioned 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, effectively, White had one other story so as to add to his guide.

“This was sort of like COVID once more all in someday,” White mentioned, laughing, simply moments earlier than leaping on stage for the ceremonial weigh-ins for UFC 279 at T-Cell Area.

When White woke up on Friday, the primary occasion was a welterweight bout between Nate Diaz and Khamzat Chimaev. Tony Ferguson was scheduled to satisfy Li Jingliang within the co-main occasion and Daniel Rodriguez was to satisfy 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 struggle 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 among his most troublesome 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 primary 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 struggle down.

Complicating issues for White on Friday was the incident that occurred on the MGM Grand Thursday on the last pre-fight information convention. A brawl broke out backstage that started between Chimaev and Holland. Finally, White mentioned all six fighters started brawling and there have been fights all through the backstage space. An absence of safety made it troublesome 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 needed to face him. Diaz, who has mentioned this may seemingly be his last UFC bout, had all of the playing cards since he made weight. He elected to not struggle 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 may have gone backstage and gotten this labored out instantly,” White instructed Yahoo Sports activities. “However we didn’t get this performed till 3 o’clock [Pacific time]. Guys had beefs with one another and there was plenty of issues happening, 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 a substitute face Tony Ferguson in the primary occasion of UFC 279 after Khamzat Chimaev missed weight for his or her welterweight bout. (Photograph by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

However the six foremost fighters all agreed to compete. Jingliang has an 8.5-pound weight-disadvantage but he nonetheless opted to take the struggle with Rodriguez. Ferguson had lengthy needed to struggle 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 mentioned of Chimaev and Holland. “And so it made sense to see if we may work that out.”

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

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

“F*** no, nevertheless it’s going to be a enjoyable one,” he mentioned.

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

Ferguson, although, appeared to summarize the sentiments of most followers when he mentioned, “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 performed.

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

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

White mentioned 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 performed.

“Once you take a look at the place we have been, and with what Khamzat weighed, the fights nearly made themselves,” White mentioned. “It was simply going via it with every of them and getting all the pieces taken care of. However Tony and Nate have been round for a very long time and folks have needed to see that struggle ceaselessly. As I mentioned, Kevin and Khamzat had beef they usually received the factor on the press convention going, they usually 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 needed to struggle.”

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