When Dana White first teased a fight between Khamzat Chimaev and Nate Diaz back in 2021, it was clearly a dud idea. Chimaev was looking for a chance to run up the welterweight division, and seemed like a bonafide title contender in the near future. Diaz had been out of the rankings since late 2020, with his only welterweight win in recent memory being a scrappy unanimous decision over former lightweight champ Anthony Pettis.
Once that bout fell apart, the nonsense of it only became more apparent. Chimaev went on to snatch a gutsy win from recent title contender Gilbert Burns. Diaz spent the next year searching for the quickest way out of his UFC contract, with all eyes on a potential boxing match with Jake Paul once his time in the world’s largest MMA promotion was through. Still, it seems the dream of Diaz vs. Chimaev lived on for UFC brass.
With Diaz wanting only bouts with high profile, ranked fighters for his final sendoff, Chimaev was the first and last name that matchmakers had on offer; a fight between a top contender and a man on his way to not just other promotions, but other sports. Outside the potential for Chimaev to gain some shine (and cash) off Diaz’s seemingly still substantial celebrity, this was a bout where both men had more to lose than anything.
Whatever potential rub the Chechen-born fighter might have got from beating the Cesar Gracie black belt, the practical upside to a victory was essentially nil. Chimaev had already secured his spot as top contender. Nothing needed to happen for him to keep that placing beyond waiting for Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards to wrap their business sometime this winter.
For Diaz, all the potential gain of this booking was tied up in the idea that, once it was done and dusted, he’d no longer be in the UFC. In the unlikely event he snagged a win over Chimaev it was still highly unlikely he’d be ushered in to a welterweight title shot. And with a contract that pays $250k per fight with no win bonus, there wasn’t even a monetary incentive driving him to victory.
Essentially, Chimaev entered this fight with only the danger that he might lose hanging over him. Diaz walked in with the knowledge that whatever his success or failure, the only important thing was what he made happen in the months that followed. Is it any wonder that, when asked if the circumstances of the bout made training difficult, Diaz admitted that he’d already given up?
“Yeah, for sure,” Diaz responded when asked if it was tough to prepare for a fight he didn’t want to take. “So I just, f-cking, I gave up on preparing. It’s just, whatever. Beat me.”
“I think that I been stuck in the cage for a long time and I got to do what I got to do to get the f-ck out,” he added. “Whether it’s fighting the toughest guy or whatever you wanna make of him or call him, or anybody. I’m like ... just ready to rock and roll.”
By Friday it seemed as though Chimaev had given up as well. The 28-year-old showed up to weigh ins 7.5 lbs over the welterweight limit, shrugged, and told reporters “that’s not bad” as he stepped off the scale. While the UFC blamed his miss on a medical issue, ‘Borz’ reportedly spent the night ahead of weigh-ins hanging out in a restaurant eating with teammates, and spent the hours afterward shitposting on Twitter. Whatever was going on behind the scenes, he seemed perfectly content with the fact that everyone else was going to be left hanging in the lurch, scrambling to keep this PPV card together.
Is it a bad look for both men? Sure. But it’s hard not to lay their lack of professionalism at the feet of the UFC as well. They booked a card where the best both athletes could hope for was to tread water; where the value of the fight wasn’t in its competitiveness or sporting dynamics so much as it was what might happen to either man once the bout was finished.
In most cases where athletes find themselves in a no-win scenario, they put their heads down and make the best of it. If the prize of fighting can’t serve as a fitting reward, then pride usually takes over. Few want to be seen as not having tried to make the best of whatever situation they’re in.
This isn’t most cases, however. Both Diaz and Chimaev seem fine letting the UFC reap what they sowed here.
It just might be that everyone comes out of it for the best anyway. That matchmakers can reconfigure last second agreements, that the event can be saved, and that fans will still end up with something fun. But if it all falls apart instead, it’ll be because the UFC tried to make a fight that nobody wanted or needed between two men who were willing to make it clear they just didn’t care.