Khamzat Chimaev grew up a Nate Diaz fan. That’s part of the reason why he’s excited to share the cage with one of the biggest stars in MMA at UFC 279. The sense of nostalgia and honor, however, is also paired with skepticism and a sense of doom for his opponent.
“They say he don’t like me and I don’t like him, too. I like that guy,” Chimaev said in a recent interview with “The MMA Hour” with Ariel Helwani. “I grew up on him. I went to school when he was fighting in the UFC. It’s amazing to fight that guy. I like him. You’ve seen in the movies. If it wasn’t for me, when I was young, the UFC was like movies. Like, ‘I’m never going to get there. I’m just going to see that.’ Now, I’m fighting with that guy I was watching. From Chechnya, I watched fights with them.”
Despite his fandom and respect for his opponent, Chimaev (11-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) indicated he’s skeptical Diaz (20-13 MMA, 18-12 UFC) shows up for the matchup. The welterweight bout is scheduled to headline UFC 279, which takes place Sept. 10 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and airs on pay-per-view. It marks the final fight on Diaz’s current UFC contract..
“I still don’t believe that guy will come or show up, that skinny boy,” Chimaev said. “We’ll see what’s happening. I’m just waiting for Sept.10. It doesn’t matter who I have. I’m training. I said, ‘If you want to fight at (185 pounds) for his last fight, just show up. I can fight at (185 pounds). It doesn’t matter.”
A heavy favorite in most sports books, Chimaev agrees the matchup is favorable. That said, Chimaev said he prepares the same for every opponent, whether champion or debutant. The recipe has been a winning one thus far, with Chimaev still unbeaten as a professional.
“If they gave me Kamaru Usman, I’d do the same thing,” Chimaev said. “For me, it doesn’t matter. The guy is just a fighter. He’s still dangerous. He fights until the last second. I’m happy he’s fighting with me. He’s one of the legends. He’s one of the ones everyone is speaking (about) like, ‘Gangster, gangster.’ I’m going to show who’s the gangster. Like I told before, we’re from Chechnya. … We eat the gangsters for breakfast.”
“… I just go in and smash his face. If we will be striking, I’ll knock him out. If we’re going down, I’ll submit him. I’ll smash his face from top. We’ll see. Whatever. For me, it doesn’t matter. I don’t know how some people answer on that sh*t.”
If his hunch proves an accurate suspicion, Chimaev has a backup plan – or at least joked of one.
“I’m going to train for that 100 percent, like I do always,” Chimaev said. “We’ll see. We’ll see what Diaz is going to do. If he (doesn’t) show up, I’ll wait for his brother.”