If one looks at the odds and listens to some current and UFC fighters, one would think Nate Diaz is going to be welcomed into the octagon at UFC 279 by Anton Chigurh and his cattle gun.
Former two-division UFC champion and current UFC commentator Daniel Cormier called the fight a “mismatch.” Ex-UFC fighter Dan Hardy said, “It feels like we’re getting to the point where someone should start thinking about pressing charges.” Meanwhile, another ex-two-division champ, Henry Cejudo said of the matchup, “I think they want, they want to feed him (Diaz) to a shark.”
Meanwhile, the man Diaz is facing in the main event of UFC 279, Khamzat Chimaev has mostly showed respect to his upcoming opponent.
“Of course, of course,” Chimaev said on The MMA Hour when asked if he respects Diaz. “You have to respect all the guys who are fighting at the top. Nate and his brother (Nick), they’re always going to war, they’re tough guys.”
As for those who think Chimaev is going to run over Diaz when they meet on September 10, the 11-0 fighter recalled that when he was starting out, he was in a similar position and he knows you can’t count out any underdog.
“When I was beginning my career, I was fighting a guy (who was) 8-0,” Chimaev recalled. “He was world champion, something like that. Some guys from my country (said), ‘Oh, that guy’s gonna beat you,’ and (I was only 1-0.).”
Chimaev is also dismissive of those who look at Diaz’s record and recent efforts and consider him washed up or a fighter who is being put in a dangerous position by fighting a rising star nine years younger and who has far fewer miles on him.
“And now, people are saying, ‘Oh, you’re gonna win the fight.’ But Diaz lost his fights,” Chimaev said. “That’s why I think he’s an underdog. If he was on a winning streak, this has to be like 50-50. People gonna think like, ‘Oh, he’s also good shape.’ Now, everyone talking the guy’s like old and this shit. But it’s still a fight. Fighting is dangerous, you know? I’m just happy to fight with that guy.”
Chimaev is taking a smart approach to this fight. He is sitting there with a fire locker by his side. Inside that OSHA-approved safety cabinet is a bucket of gasoline. Chimaev can either throw that gas into the fire that is Nate Diaz and spark a blaze of trash talk and remonstrances from the Diaz Army or he can leave the flammable material locked inside the cabinet. So far, Chimaev is keeping things safe and secure.
That’s a wise approach to the upcoming bout. It might not be the fun move for fans or the promotion, but if things go sideways and Diaz scores a massive and memorable upset victory, Chimaev can fall back and say, “hey, I respected his skills as a fighter, even if the fans, pundits, oddsmakers and matchmakers didn’t.”