The UFC has long trumpeted itself as the place where fans get to see the big fights they dream about come to reality. But what about the big fights fans aren’t dreaming about—or are perhaps even arguing steadfastly against?
Well it appears the UFC is here to make those fight’s happen too, whether people want them or not.
Khamzat Chimaev recently re-cemented his status as one of MMA’s fastest rising stars with a powerful, dominating performance of Li Jingliang on the main card of UFC 267. The bout was Chimaev’s first since coming down with a nasty case of COVID-19 that nearly forced him out of the sport. For fans and pundits worried that he wouldn’t return with his former fire and dominance, he proved once again that he’s a near unstoppable force in the Octagon.
So, when the idea of pitting him against top drawing welterweight Nate Diaz for the last fight of the Cesar Gracie fighter’s UFC contract got bandied about, many saw it not as a way to help build Chimaev up further—instead, perhaps, as an opportunity to bury Diaz on his way out the door. Stockton’s own is currently riding a two fight losing streak, having most recently dropped a unanimous decision to Leon Edwards back in June. If he’s really set on fighting out his current deal and testing free agency, the UFC may find it in their own interest to make sure his value on the open market is as low as possible.
Which is all hogwash according to Dana White, who spoke to Barstool Sports about his interest in Diaz vs. Chimaev. To hear White tell it, this is just a ‘massive’ fight that does no more harm off a loss to Diaz’s value than any other matchup would (transcript via MMA Mania).
“This isn’t a diss, I love Nate Diaz,” white explained. “I love Nick and Nate as much as anyone else. You get to a point in fighting, in your professional career in sports, where it’s like ‘Can I hang here anymore?’ Does everybody know he lost his last fight? How are you going to devalue him? What if he loses to someone else that we match him up with, would he be devalued? How does Khamzat Chimaev devalue him? You know how massive that fight ..?”
“Here’s the moral of the story: all these people are f—ing morons and have no idea what they’re talking about. I actually run the biggest f—ing combat sports business on planet f—king Earth. So, shut the f—k up and let me do my job!”
For his part, Diaz doesn’t sound at all interested—posting a clip of the NBA’s Russell Westbrook dismissing a reporter’s dumb post-game question in response to White’s intended booking.
Whether or not Diaz’s disinterest puts the matter to bed remains to be seen. For the moment it sounds like White is still gung-ho on the idea, but if Chimaev and the UFC want him back in the Octagon soon, it seems likely they’ll move on to new opponents fairly quickly.