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Is pressure of headlining UFC 279 vs. Nate Diaz starting to get to Khamzat Chimaev?

LAS VEGAS — There’s a straightforward effectively to inform how a fighter has made it: When different fighters start speaking about him, it’s a certain signal.

Khamzat Chimaev clearly has made it. We knew that when Nate Diaz agreed to struggle him in the primary occasion of UFC 279 on Saturday at T-Cellular Enviornment in what is probably going Diaz’s last fight in the UFC.

Diaz is shrewd in his personal manner and he wasn’t going to exit preventing a man nobody ever heard of and didn’t care a lot about.

At Wednesday’s media day, Kevin Holland had a lot to say about Chimaev, who has solely 5 fights within the UFC. Holland, who himself is a rising star and can struggle Daniel Rodriguez on Saturday’s most important card, basically mentioned Chimaev’s powerful man act is phony.

“I really feel like he likes the f***ing media,” Holland mentioned when requested about Chimaev. “I really feel like he solely does this further wannabe avenue s*** when the media is round. Aside from that, he doesn’t do it. Whenever you guys [in the media] aren’t round, he desires to do fist bumps and he desires to be your finest pal.

“Whenever you guys are round, then impulsively he’s like, ‘Roar! I’ll rip your f***ing head off.’ You ain’t ripping s*** off, canine. Let’s be actual. You need a paycheck identical to the remainder of these guys round right here.”

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - APRIL 09: Khamzat Chimaev of Russia looks on after his welterweight fight against Gilbert Burns of Brazil during the UFC 273 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 09, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Khamzat Chimaev (11-0, 6 KOs) faces the largest highlight of his profession Saturday in the primary occasion of UFC 279. (Picture by James Gilbert/Getty Photos)

Chimaev and middleweight Paulo Costa had an altercation on the UFC Efficiency Institute earlier within the week. Costa mentioned he was prepared to struggle Chimaev on the spot. Costa mentioned that when Chimaev mentioned he’d struggle him, Costa walked towards the cage Chimaev was in. Members of Chimaev’s group blocked Costa from coming into, main Costa to discuss with Chimaev as “a faux gangster.”

And there are extra, however you get the concept.

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Chimaev, although, does appear totally different this week. In some ways, his fast rise to reputation is as a result of he’s been seen as one thing of a Russian model of Diaz. He got here into the UFC nearly unknown and shortly confirmed that he’s violent, he’s unapologetic and that he’d put anybody in his targets.

When he debuted within the U.S. at a UFC Battle Night time present at Apex in opposition to Gerald Meerschaert, he took over the pre-fight information convention, taking jabs at everybody on the cardboard.

He was so assured of victory over Diaz that when the struggle was introduced in July, he instructed ESPN, “I’m going to deal with Nate Diaz’s funeral with the UFC.”

On Wednesday, he spoke barely above a whisper throughout a quick media day look after which once more in a sit-down interview with Yahoo Sports activities. Possibly that shouldn’t come as a lot of a shock, provided that that is his first most important occasion and he’s headlining a pay-per-view in opposition to one of the crucial iconic athletes in UFC historical past. It’s his identify, because the higher-rated fighter, first on the promotional supplies — the struggle formally is billed as Chimaev-Diaz, not Diaz-Chimaev — and he’ll make the ring stroll final.

Because the pay-per-view headliner, the calls for on him are far higher than something he’s ever had earlier than, and he nonetheless has to chop to at the least 171 kilos. So there’s so much on his plate and maybe his lack of boasting and outlandish habits that characterised so lots of his different UFC bouts is a direct results of that. However his temperament was so totally different from the previous, it was the primary query I requested him once I sat with him. He insisted nothing’s totally different.

“It’s the identical factor,” he mentioned. “It’s the identical factor I did all my life. I like once I do the identical issues. I prefer to eat the identical breakfast day-after-day. It’s no totally different.”

He mentioned the enjoyment that was so plainly evident in his earlier UFC fights stays, even when it isn’t so apparent.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 19: (R-L) Khamzat Chimaev of Chechnya punches Gerald Meerschaert in their middleweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Khamzat Chimaev’s one-punch knockout of Gerald Meerschaert vaulted the Russian-born fighter to immediate fame. (Picture by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Chimaev on Diaz: ‘I’ve to go and take his head off’

Chimaev is a -1200 favorite at BetMGM, making him one of many greatest favorites in a most important occasion in UFC historical past.

When the struggle was made, Diaz’s supervisor, Zach Rosenfield, went out of his method to make the purpose that the struggle wasn’t supplied and that as a substitute, Diaz requested for it. However Diaz is now saying he took the struggle solely as a method to full his obligations to the UFC.

His feedback about Chimaev in which can be telling, nevertheless.

“I’ve been caught within the cage for a very long time and I’ve received to do what I’ve received to do to get the f*** out,” Diaz mentioned when requested his ideas on Chimaev. “Whether or not it’s preventing the hardest man or the most recent man or no matter you need to make of him or name him, I’m simply able to rock and roll.”

So for those who peel again the layers of the onion a bit, is he saying that Chimaev is the hardest man? Maybe.

Chimaev, although, confirmed a bit of respect in return, one thing he’s not often executed. It might imply nothing or simply be indicative of the truth that he’s bored to tears speaking and is simply wanting to struggle, however providing even faint reward to an opponent is new for him.

“All moments within the UFC are huge moments for me, you recognize?” Chimaev mentioned. “It feels superb. I’m preventing Nate Diaz, one of many guys whose been 15 years on this sport, one of many legends. Possibly it’s his final struggle, who is aware of, however I’m completely satisfied.”

However he wouldn’t be Khamzat Chimaev if he supplied simply platitudes. Although he was talking softly, he gave a glimpse of his mindset.

“I’ve to go and take his head off,” Chimaev mentioned. “I got here right here and don’t take the factors. I got here right here to smash any individual and take his head.”

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