Dana White shuffles UFC 279 deck: Nate Diaz-Tony Ferguson, Khamzat Chimaev-Kevin Holland now main card – ESPN

UFC cancels news conference after fights break out backstage - ESPN

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

Nate Diaz will now face Tony Ferguson in the main event of Saturday’s show at T-Mobile Arena. 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 of course chose not to fight such an overweight opponent.

White said Chimaev began to clamp and lock during his heavy cut.

“It’s no accident that we put guys in the same weight class on the same card in case something goes wrong. It worked,” White said. “Getting these guys to agree on different fights can be a little difficult sometimes. We’ve done everything. We’re locked in.”

Chimaev’s weight miss caused a chain reaction. The UFC spent the entire morning and afternoon negotiating with all six camps for those changes. Changes at this level so close to a UFC card are 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 will only be three. Ferguson agreed to fight for five rounds against Diaz.

“Nate Diaz and Tony, the fans have wanted to see this one forever,” White said. “It’s going to happen now before Nate leaves the UFC. It couldn’t have been played out any better.”

Now, Chimaev will bring himself Kevin Holland in the UFC 279 co-headline. 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-Chimaev will also be a five-round bout.

Li, who weighed in at 170.5 pounds on Friday, will now fight Rodriguez. There will be a big weight gap, as Rodriguez came in at 179 pounds.

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

Chimaev had a bizarre week. He got into a verbal altercation with a middleweight Paulo Costa on Wednesday at the UFC Performance Institute, and on Thursday before the UFC 279 news conference, he entered into a skirmish with Holland, which he will now fight. Chimaev kicked Holland during the backstage encounter. The press conference was eventually cancelled.

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

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