Khamzat Chimaev says he hopes Nate Diaz can “survive” five rounds with him at UFC 279 this weekend, although he does not expect his rival to get past the first.
Diaz, still one of the most popular fighters in the sport, heads into the final bout on his current UFC contract on the back of successive defeats.
Chimaev, meanwhile, has taken the sport by storm since debuting in the UFC in Abu Dhabi in 2020. The Chechen-born Swede, 28, is unbeaten in 11 professional MMA bouts. Diaz, 37, has a 20-13 pro record.
Asked at the UFC 279 media day late on Wednesday what he expects from Diaz, Chimaev told reporters: “What he going to do? [The] fight [is] at 170 [lbs].
“I can fight at heavyweight as well. I don’t think that guy is going to survive one round. I hope he can survive five rounds. It’s good for him. Show his heart and go away from the UFC being a warrior.
“If I beat him first round everyone is going to say the guy is too old and that Uncle Diaz is going to have to go home.”
Making his sixth appearance in the UFC, Chimaev has already become one of the most talked-about athletes in the sport.
Having burst on to the scene during the inaugural Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, he ploughed through a number of opponents before facing his first real test last time out, against Gilbert Burns in April.
That Fight of the Year Contender, which Chimaev won by unanimous decision, came six months following his long-awaited comeback – he suffered badly from Covid-19 – at UFC 267 in the UAE capital last October.
On whether he felt the magnitude of headlining a Vegas card this weekend, Chimaev said: “All moments in UFC are big moments for me. It feels amazing I’m fighting Nate Diaz. One of the guys who has been, like, 15 years in the UFC.
“One of the legends. Maybe it’s his last fight. Who knows. I’m happy.”
As for what happens when the octagon door closes come fight night, Chimaev said: “I’m going to go take his head off. I come here, don’t take the points and play the games. I come here to smash somebody and take his head.”