Diaz (20-13 MMA, 18-12 UFC) faces Chimaev in the UFC 279 main event on Sept. 10 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Diaz is massive underdog heading into the welterweight headliner with Chimaev (11-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC), but Gracie thinks all the pressure is on the unbeaten rising star.
Chimaev has predicted that he will run through Diaz, and if he gets off to an aggressive start like he always does, Gracie thinks there are ways Diaz could take advantage.
“He’s putting the pressure on himself to finish this fight pretty quick, and if he comes out hard like that, I think that’ll work into Nate’s favor, to be honest with you,” Gracie told Submission Radio. “I think Nate has to bring him into deep water. Obviously, 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.”
UFC 279 marks the final fight of Diaz’s UFC contract. It took a while for Diaz to come to an agreement with the UFC, and Gracie understands why the promotion opted for the Chimaev fight over other options he felt made more sense.
“This is an interesting fight for sure,” Gracie said. “I can tell you it wasn’t on my list. I was trying to have him fight (Michael) Chandler, actually, because Chandler wanted to come up in weight and I said, ‘Man, this is an exciting guy. Look, he’s going to go for it. Nate’s an exciting fighter, let’s have this fight happen.’ Nate wanted to fight (Dustin) Poirier because they’ve had a few, they were supposed to fight before.”
“Obviously, I’m not privy to what the UFC is talking about, but what you just described is exactly how I feel about it. So, what the fans are thinking is – it’s no secret when you wanna leave the UFC, they wanna make sure you’re not gonna leave as a winner. They wanna 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 there’s a lot of other fights that made a lot more sense, they (UFC) said no to.”