Diaz-Ferguson, Chimaev-Holland set at UFC 279

LAS VEGAS – The UFC has completely shuffled the top three fights on its UFC 279 card, one day before the scheduled pay-per-view event, UFC president Dana White told SportsCenter in a live Instagram video.

Nate Diaz will now face Tony Ferguson in the main event of Saturday’s show. Diaz’s original opponent Khamzat Chimaev missed weight by 7.5 pounds Friday morning, coming in at 178.5 pounds for a 171-pound limit bout. Diaz understandably chose not to fight such an overweight opponent.

Chimaev’s weight miss caused a chain reaction. The UFC spent the entire morning and afternoon negotiating with all six camps for these changes. These level of alterations this close to a UFC card is unprecedented.

Ferguson, a fan favorite like Diaz, was scheduled to fight Li Jingliang in the co-main event Saturday. Ferguson weighed in at 170.5 pounds for that fight.

Diaz vs. Ferguson will be five rounds. Diaz was scheduled for five rounds with Chimaev, but Ferguson vs. Li was only going to be three. Ferguson agreed to fight for five rounds against Diaz.

Now, Chimaev will take on Kevin Holland in the UFC 279 co-headliner. Holland’s original opponent was set to be Daniel Rodriguez in a 180-pound catchweight bout. Holland weighed in Friday morning at 179.5 pounds. Holland and Chimaev will also be a five-round bout.

Li, who weighed 170.5 pounds Friday, will now fight Rodriguez. That will be a large gap in weight. Rodriguez came in at 179 pounds.

Chimaev, 28, is one of the UFC’s biggest rising stars and was a -1000 favorite over Diaz, per Caesars Sportsbook. The UFC essentially booked this fight to get Chimaev a bout with a big star in Diaz in which he was supposed to win. Diaz is on the final fight of his UFC contract and has indicated this will be his last UFC bout, at least for now.

Chimaev has had a bizarre week. He got into a verbal altercation with middleweight Paulo Costa on Wednesday at the UFC Performance Institute and Thursday before the UFC 279 press conference, Chimaev got into a skirmish with Holland, who he is now fighting. Chimaev kicked Holland during the backstage encounter. The press conference was ultimately canceled.

When Chimaev weighed in Friday morning, he shrugged his shoulders and showed no contrition for the massive miss. Later, he posted a meme joking about missing weight on Twitter.

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