Khamzat Chimaev’s weight issues began long before his dramatic weigh-in miss ahead of UFC 279.
This past Saturday’s pay-per-view event in Las Vegas saw one of the most chaotic lineup shuffles in UFC history after Chimaev missed weight by over seven pounds for a scheduled welterweight main event bout against Nate Diaz. Officials were able to salvage the card by reorganizing the six fighters in the top three bouts, and Chimaev ended up in the co-main event against Kevin Holland.
Chimaev scored a dominant first-round submission win over Holland, but he now faces the question of whether he will be able to make the 170-pound weight limit (where he is currently No. 3 at welterweight in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings) going forward. His coach Andreas Michael appeared on The MMA Hour on Monday to discuss the situation and address mistakes that were made in training camp.
“His whole career he’s been fighting at welterweight,” Michael said. “He’s missed weight this time, but it’s not as if he’s been missing weight all the time. Of course, he’s been having a hard time making weight, but he’s always made weight. The point of the thing is that we’re going to make it easier and fight at middleweight some of the fights, but we’re game for welterweight as well.
“We’re not going to lose our ranking there, hopefully, because we’re so close to a title fight there. Once we take the belt there, we’re going to pursue the middleweight division with all our hearts. Right now, some fights are going to be at middleweight, some are going to be at middleweight, worthwhile fights. But that’s up to the UFC, of course, that’s not up to us.”
Michael said the timing of the scheduled bout with Diaz played a part in the trouble Chimaev had making weight.
“We started this camp heavy,” Michael continued. “That’s what the problem was as well. We got an offer to fight Nate Diaz, and it was earlier than this in August. It was too soon because he was heavy. Then they moved it 10 days up, and I believe we just started too heavy this camp. We should have had a little more discipline and held our weight to a reasonable level, to a reasonable weight close to the one that he’s training at and going into camp. That’s basically about it.
“We can find a lot of reasons and excuses and all this. At the end of the day — I’m not slagging off Khamzat, he’s a magnificent fighter and I love him to death — but what I’m saying is that it was absolutely unprofessional from our side not to make weight. Anyone who doesn’t make weight is unprofessional, absolutely. I want to [apologize] to Nate’s camp for that. We should have both made weight, and there are no excuses.”
Chimaev has competed at both welterweight and middleweight in the UFC and previously has never come in over either division’s limit, but Michael said that the fighter was in bad shape the evening before Friday’s official weigh-ins.
“He was getting muscle spasms, shaking,” Michael said. “Vomiting. When he stood up he was passing out. I was worried about him.”
“Ever since he got coronavirus and all these health issues, he’s had a little bit of a hard time making the weight,” Michael later added. “Ever since that issue, his body has been a little bit off when it comes down to pushing it to the last drop. But I’m just speculating. Like I said, I’m not a physician, I’m not a doctor or anything like that, and I don’t claim to be one.”
Chimaev badly missed weight at morning weigh-ins, and what followed was a chaotic 12-hour period in which it was unclear whether he would even remain on the card. UFC President Dana White later told ESPN that Chimaev was “locking up and cramping” while attempting to cut weight and that doctors did not allow him to continue the process.
Michael clarified it was his decision to stop the weight cut after consulting with doctors. He also made it clear that Chimaev’s miss had nothing to do with any sort of grand plan on the part of his team or the UFC.
“I told [Chimaev], ‘F*** this, your health is number one,’” Michael said. “That’s why we called the physician. We were thinking, ‘Forget about the fight. Is he alright?’ Cutting weight is very dangerous for the body if you push too hard, and I just wanted him to be OK. I thought to myself, ‘OK, if this means that I’m going to risk his health, then I’ve got to make an executive decision and I’ve got to be a leader and do what’s best for him.’ I talked to the doctor, and I asked him, ‘What do you think?’ The doctor told me, ‘Listen, I don’t advise that you continue cutting weight.’
“I want to point this out because there’s a lot of different stories. Every time I give an interview, people are picking up small things and manipulating them and making the wrong things up. This is exactly what happened — I’m not manipulating — there is no conspiracy theory. Of course, we would have loved to have the legacy fight with Nate Diaz. Of course. We are crazy not to want to fight that fight. It’s not going to happen again. We missed our chance there. Everyone says, ‘It wouldn’t have given you anything.’ Of course it would have given us something. That fight is you’re fighting a big name, a popular guy, and you’re building your brand up. That was the fight that we wanted, and that’s what we trained for and suffered and went through hell for that fight. Are you kidding me? Kevin Holland is a much harder fight than Nate Diaz. All respect to Nate, he comes to fight, he’s an af****** warrior. I’m a fan, I think he’s got the heart of a lion. He comes and he brings it. He’s not someone that we take lightly, and we know that he’s a guy that’s going to come to win, but what do you think would have happened if Khamzat fought him?”
While Chimaev was fortunate that there was already a 180-pound catchweight bout scheduled between Holland and Daniel Rodriguez on the card — a scenario that provided Chimaev with a reasonable replacement opponent — Michael insists the goal was always to fight Diaz until it was clear that would It’s not possible.
The coach added that Chimaev went as far as to tell him that he would fight Diaz for free.
“He wanted to fight Nate,” Michael said. “I said to him, ‘The doctor told you, you can’t continue and I’m going to stop the weight cut. I’m going to stop it because in all honesty I can’t go against the doctor’s words. Think if something happened. I’d never forgive myself. So what I said to him was that you better prepare yourself that you’re not going to get a fight.
“He goes, ‘Listen, tell them I’ll give them my purse. I’m going to give my purse to Nate. I want to fight. Please tell Nate I’m sorry, I just want to fight. I trained hard for this, I don’t want the fight to disappear. I’m sorry for Nate, he’s cut weight and he’s done everything he could, I just—my body can’t take this. For me, it’s not hard fighting; for me, it’s not hard training. The hardest thing for me is when my body shuts down when I’m taking the weight. I want to make it worth his while and I’m going to give him my whole purse.’”
A bout with Diaz is unlikely to ever occur now with Diaz fighting out of his contract after defeating Tony Ferguson by submission in the UFC 279 main event. But Chimaev’s team is still aiming for big fights and championship opportunities, either at 170 or 185 pounds.
If it’s up to Michael, Chimaev will make the cut to welterweight to challenge for that division’s title.
“I’d pick 170,” Michael said when asked which weight class Chimaev will chase a title in. “I’ll tell you why: Out of respect for the work that we’ve done. We’ve worked our way up there and we ranked ourselves there. We’ve gotten there, it wasn’t just given to us, we’ve gotten there.”