Khamzat Chimaev steamrolled Li Jingliang at UFC 267. Jingliang entered the fight as the No. 11 ranked fighter in the official UFC welterweight rankings. Chimaev returned from a break of more than a year after he suffered from a nasty case of COVID-19 that left him contemplating retirement and thinking he was going to die. The fight lasted 3:16. Jingliang didn’t land a single significant strike. Chimaev went 25-for-25 in that department and then choked his opponent unconscious. The win was an impressive one and seemed to show that Chimaev was back to being the most hyped fighter on the UFC roster.
After Chimaev’s win, No. 8 ranked Neil Magny raised his hand to face the 10-0 Chimaev.
“Last year, there was this mystique or aura around him like, ‘This guy is unbeatable. He’s the new kid on the block.’ Everyone was afraid to put their name out there. I was like, ‘I don’t care. I’ll fight this guy.’ I’ve fought some of the best guys in the UFC over the last nine years,” Magny told MMA Junkie. “I have nothing to be afraid of at this point. I jumped in back then to fight. Now that he came out and beat Jingliang the way that I did, I’m even more excited to fight him because, in my opinion, (his win) shut up some of the doubters and the mystique and aura around him ever better.”
Magny even had a date in mind.
“I was offered a fight for Dec. 18 and the fight ended up falling through because the opponent got injured shortly after. As of now, the UFC is working actively to get me a replacement for Dec. 18. So in a perfect world, this fight takes place Dec. 18.”
Instead of booking Chimaev a fight with a ready-made and well-respected opponent, UFC president Dana White decided he wants Nate Diaz, who is unranked and has zero wins in the past two years to face Chimaev.
“We’re going to talk to Nate (Diaz) about it,” White told TMZ. “One hundred percent (I’m interested in making that fight).
Of course he is.
Besides having times of being petty and vindictive, the UFC’s negotiation strategies are also predictable.
Diaz has one fight left on his UFC deal and all indications are that he is going to fight out his contract and explore free agency.
The UFC could be happy with what Diaz gave them during his time with promotion. Diaz brought over 14 years of action, two of the biggest selling pay-per-views in UFC history and the BMF title — as well as a significant amount of blood. They could offer Diaz a thank you, a handshake and good wishes as he walks out the door, but that hasn’t been their style — at least not if there’s a chance to extract more profit, or prevent others from making money off of him either.
So instead of wishing Diaz well, White wants to book him against Chimaev. Why? Simple. Diaz has struggled with wrestlers his entire career, and he wants to send him out the door with a loss and a significantly diminished market value as he enters free agency. It can cost him a possible lucrative boxing match with one of the Paul brothers, or convince Diaz to re-sign with the UFC at a much reduced rate.
If you think that’s farfetched, remember the UFC wouldn’t allow a long retired Georges St-Pierre out of his contract to fight Oscar De La Hoya in an exhibition boxing match. This strategy has also been long implemented by the UFC, with lawsuit documents revealing how they’ve ruthlessly negotiated for years. As one of their many go to moves, former matchmaker Joe Silva admitted that when fighters reject contract extensions and want to test free agency, “I put him in a prelim against a really tough guy for his last fight.”
What makes the UFC’s desire to offer Diaz the Chimaev fight even more despicable is if Diaz turns down the fight — which he should — he’ll still be under UFC contract. In what Joe Silva was notorious for, and something they repeated with Ngannou recently, the UFC can even technically extend that contract for turning down fights.
White can then predictably take shots at Diaz and question his character after, as he routinely does for everyone that turns down fights and tries to negotiate. Either way, it’s a win, win, for White and the UFC.
If it was mostly about the sport and not about trying to sabotage Diaz’s leverage and bargaining power, UFC would have probably already tried to book Chimaev vs. Magny for December.