Editor Note: This article was published prior to the UFC 279: Diaz vs Ferguson event change. Nate Diaz will now fight Tony Ferguson in the main event, Khamzat Chimaev will fight Kevin Holland in a catchweight (180) co-main event and Li Jingliang will fight Daniel Rodriguez in a catchweight (180) bout. | Order UFC 279: Diaz vs Ferguson
Nate Diaz respects Khamzat Chimaev and what he’s done thus far in his career, but don’t expect there to be any high fives or good vibes between the two before their Saturday main event in Las Vegas.
“It’s war and it’s war always,” said Diaz. “And it’s never gonna be anything but that.”
That statement, that mindset and that lifestyle is why fans – both diehard and casual – will still come out in droves to see the 37-year-old fight against anybody, anywhere, at any time, just like their hero will.
It doesn’t mean it always happens that way, and as Diaz sparred with the UFC since the summer of last year in order to get a fight made, the Stockton native was frustrated, especially when initially presented with facing the unbeaten Chimaev, and not some of the bigger names he wanted.
“I called for this guy, I called for that guy, I was trying to fight everybody the whole time and get the show on the road,” said Diaz. “And they offered me him, but Khamzat is a new guy who’s new on the scene, and obviously a problem and obviously a hard fighter for anybody because he’s new and nobody expects it from a new guy.”
Diaz considered fighting someone with four UFC fights under his belt an insult, especially after being a main or co-main event in his previous five bouts, despite Chimaev’s rapid rise and spectacular performances.
“You offer me the hardest fight there is, a guy that hasn’t earned his keep and hasn’t done his thing,” said Diaz, who came back to the UFC with a suggestion.
“Have him fight Burns. If he can beat Burns, then I’ll fight him.”
Gilbert Burns fought Chimaev in April, and after three furious rounds, the Chechnya native earned a hard-fought victory, a Fight of the Night bonus, and a main event against one of the biggest stars.
“Okay, there you go,” said Diaz, who admits that “Borz” is a talent, but won’t go further than that.
“I think he’s good, and I can see where he came from and the hard work he’s doing,” he said. “I don’t ever want to fight a guy who’s not the best guy. I’ll fight anybody, but do something first.”
Chimaev’s win over Burns landed him in the number three spot at 170 pounds, and a win on Saturday could propel him into a title fight against newly crowned Leon Edwards or the winner of an expected rematch between Edwards and the man he beat for the belt, Kamaru Usman. As for Diaz, who has faced former, current or future UFC champions in five of his last ten bouts, he’s in the last fight of his current contract with the promotion, leading many to speculate what he will do next. It’s too early to tell, but Diaz did say that “I don’t believe for a second that this is my last fight in the UFC.”
That’s good news for the loyal fans who have followed Diaz since he was a fresh-faced kid from Northern California making his UFC debut by winning the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter in 2007. Since then, it’s been a rollercoaster filled with highs, lows, and everything in between, but what has never changed is Diaz’ respect for the game and what happens on fight night. And it’s almost a certainty that Chimaev has never seen anyone quite like him.
“I’m sure he knows what he’s in for,” said Diaz. “So we’ll see what happens.”
UFC 279 FREE FIGHTS: Tony Ferguson vs Katsunori Kikuno | Li Jingliang vs Muslim Salikhov | Khamzat Chimaev vs Gilbert Burns | Khamzat Chimaev vs Li Jingliang | Nate Diaz vs Cowboy Cerrone | Nate Diaz vs Conor McGregor
And isn’t that the beauty of it all? Chimaev may be the unbeaten hotshot on a sizzling hot streak, favored to beat the veteran and move on to a title shot. But Nate Diaz has won against the odds before, and he knows that when the Octagon door shuts, all that matters is the fight, not the hype.
“I’m here to fight, I’m here to do my thing and whatever happens happens,” he said. “I’m coming to win.”