Khamzat Chimaev capped off an unusual week with a faultless submission win over Kevin Holland in the co-main event of UFC 279 on Saturday. Chimaev was of course scheduled to meet Nate Diaz in the main event slot. However, that got changed after he missed weight (badly).
The weirdness around UFC 279 started a few days before Chimaev missed the welterweight limit by over eight pounds. While he was attempting to cut weight, cameras captured Chimaev beefing with Paulo Costa at UFC Performance Institute. That footage included Chimaev barking at Costa from the other side of a cage, before being invited to enter and continue the ‘conversation’. Chimaev was shown to turn down that invitation.
Fast-forward to the UFC 279 pre-fight press conference on Thursday. That event had to be scrapped after an alleged 100-person brawl broke out backstage. It has been claimed that Chimaev was the instigator of the chaos, after he front kicked Holland (over something Holland had said in an early media appearance).
When Chimaev missed weight on Friday, the UFC shuffled their main card in order to keep him on the event.
Chimaev was showered with boos when he made his walk to the cage on Saturday. In his post-fight comments he was indignant; blasting fans, and anyone else, who questioned his behaviour and inability to come anywhere close to his agreed upon weight limit.
Despite all these shenanigans, Chimaev seems to remain on solid footing with the UFC. At his Contender Series press conference White made it clear that Chimaev’s path to the top won’t be impeded by anything that happened over the weekend.
“It was a nutty week,” he said (ht MMA Junkie). “I mean, the whole week was nutty in every way that it could possibly be nutty, but I wouldn’t say by any stretch that it was a bad week for Khamzat Chimaev. He came in, and you all know what I think about Kevin Holland and what I think about him as a person and as a fighter, and God damn, Khamzat made that looked easy and very quick. He’s an absolute beast.”
Chimaev’s win over Holland moved his record to an impressive 12-0. Six of those wins have come inside the Octagon.
It all started in 2020 when Chimaev was booked to fight twice in 10 days on the so-called ‘Fight Island’. He won both those bouts in devastating fashion.
He followed that up with a 17-second KO of Gerald Meerschaert at the UFC APEX.
Things went off the rails shortly after. He was booked to face Leon Edwards (who has since won the UFC welterweight title), but COVID infections—to both Edwards and Chimaev—obliterated that match-up.
Chimaev’s bout with COVID was a tough one. The Chechen was reportedly considering retiring from fighting due to the severity of his symptoms.
He returned to full health in late 2021 and defeated Li Jingliang by technical decision. In April Gilbert Burns gave Chimaev his toughest test to date, going the distance in a Fight of the Night that was scored a unanimous decision for Chimaev.