Khamzat Chimaev is not the fight Nate Diaz’ coach wanted

The Ultimate Fighter 5 winner and fan favorite Nate Diaz will fight out his contract when he takes on Khamzat Chimaev in the UFC 279 main event on Sept. 10.

The undefeated Chimaev (11-0) is coming off a unanimous decision win over Gilbert Burns in his last outing. Diaz (20-13) last fought at UFC 263 in June 2021, losing to Leon Edwards by decision. Prior to the bout agreements being signed, Diaz asked to be released from his contract, or be given a final fight so he could pursue business options outside of the UFC.

The fight promotion opted to line him up with the hottest up-and-comer in the welterweight division. It’s not the match that Diaz’ coach, Cesar Gracie, wanted.

“I can tell you, it wasn’t on my list. I was trying to have him fight Chandler actually, because Chandler wanted to come up in weight. And I said, man, this is an exciting guy. Look, he’s gonna go for it. Nate’s an exciting fighter. Let’s have this fight happen,” Gracie told Submission Radio.

“Nate wanted to fight [Dustin] Poirier, because they’ve had a feud, they were supposed to fight before. And so the UFC ended up putting the other fighter in. And I thought, oh, the guy used to fight at 185, he dropped down, he’s 170 now. And Nate is a 155-pounder who just doesn’t want to cut weight, pretty much is why he wants to fight at 170. Yeah, it was a weird matchup for sure. But, being five rounds and everything, you know, I think Nate can bring him into deep water, and hopefully pull something out. That’ll be good.”

Chimaev is nine years younger than the 37-year old Diaz. He’s heavily favored in the betting lines. Gracie believes the fight promotion lined Diaz up with Chimaev to have Diaz leave with a loss.

“It’s no secret when you wanna leave the UFC, they want to make sure you’re not gonna leave as a winner. They want to make sure that you’re not gonna help another organization out, is what I’m thinking. So, the fights that made sense with Poirier and, you know, there’s a lot of other fights that made a lot more sense, they said no to. And I know Poirier wanted that fight too. So why not give those guys that fight? It was supposed to happen before, it made a lot of sense. Or someone like Chandler or something like that,” Gracie said.

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Despite the allegedly motives of the fight promotion booking the fight, Gracie believes that there are areas that Diaz has the advantage.

““On the standup. He’s a young kid. Khamzat’s a young guy, he’s got a lot of energy. He’s very strong. He’s got very good wrestling to take it to the ground. I think what I saw in his last fight is he was taking Gilbert Burns down, but after a while he realized it was kind of dangerous down there and the fight ended up being more of a standup fight than anything. I think Nate actually has better hands than Burns does. And I think another thing is, Khamzat, he comes at you with a lot of passion and he wants to finish you. He’s already said this is gonna be Nate’s funeral. So, he’s putting the pressure on himself to finish this fight pretty quick. And if he comes out hard like that, you know, I think that’ll work into to Nate’s favor, to be honest with you,” Gracie said.

“I think Nate has to bring him into deep water. Obviously you gotta be in shape to do that. Nate’s always in shape. Standing up? I give the edge to Nate. On the ground? I think Nate’s a better grappler. But, you’re fighting a younger guy that’s strong. It’s definitely a tough fight, but there’s ways to win this fight.”

Gracie sees the match with Chimaev as have a lot of similarities to Diaz being brought in on short notice to face Conor McGregor at UFC 196. We know how that ended.

“All the pressure’s is on him for this fight. The expectations on him are huge. They’re already talking about him fighting for the title against [Kamaru] Usman. So, there’s a lot of pressure on him. And if he has a bad showing, it’s really gonna hurt him more than anything else. So, I think there’s pressure on him to win, win convincingly and make a statement.

“And I think with Nate, there’s not as much pressure on him. And Nate is Nate, and we’re pretty much almost like in a similar situation when they brought Nate in for the McGregor fight. In certain ways. Here’s our superstar, McGregor, he’s the next greatest thing, he’s gonna go right through Nate. And then Nate kind of showed him that that necessarily might not happen. So, yeah, I’m thinking the pressure’s on Khamzat on this one,” Gracie said.