Tony Ferguson steps into UFC 279 main event against Nate Diaz as fighters swap opponents

One of the most chaotic lead-ups to a UFC pay-per-view card culminated with the three top-billed fights all swapping opponents, with Nate Diaz now facing Tony Ferguson in the main event of UFC 279 on Saturday night.

UFC president Dana White already had called it an unprecedented situation when he was forced to cancel the traditional fighters' press conference on Thursday due to an uncontrollable brawl backstage between multiple fighters and their entourages, before further shenanigans took place at the weigh-ins.

Needing to weigh within one pound of the 170lbs welterweight limit, Khamzat Chimaev – in his first main event – came in at a staggering 178.5lbs, missing weight by seven-and-a-half pounds.

While fighters are given an extra hour to try and shed the extra weight – usually one or two pounds at the most – Chimaev was so far away that there was no point, all but cancelling his fight against Diaz as he refused to concede the massive advantage to his already favoured opponent.

While a few pounds may not seem like it would decide an outcome, competitors who have missed weight have been known to thrive on fight night due to the fact they did not have to drain themselves all the way down to the required number.

It raises questions about the validity of cutting weight at all, with other promotions such as top Asian brand ONE Championship outright banning the practice by forcing fighters to pass hydration tests in the lead up to the fight to ensure they are not dangerously dehydrated in the effort to shed the last few pounds.

With the main event off, the call was made to Ferguson to step in on short notice, having been booked in the co-main event against Li Jingliang.

With Ferguson making the weight at 170lbs and accepting the bump up to the main event – and almost certainly a significant pay increase to save the card – it left Li without a fight.

So, with Chimaev still willing to fight at a higher weight, he will now face Kevin Holland, with those two said to be at the centre of the backstage scuffle that ended the press conference. Holland had been preparing for a catchweight bout at 180lbs against Daniel Rodriguez, so he will not be outweighed by Chimaev when they contest the new co-main event.

That left Li and Rodriguez as the two remaining fighters to match up, but the problem is that Li had weighed in at 170, and Rodriguez came in at 180. In an Instagram post, Li said it is "no problem", and accepted the extremely tough upgraded opponent.