Li Jingliang was a good solider for the UFC throughout the saga of UFC 279. But that doesn’t mean he’s happy with where things landed — both in the days before the event and in his controversial split decision loss to Daniel Rodriguez on short notice.
“It’s a robbery,” Jingliang said through a translator while wearing a shirt that emblazoned with “Robbed!” on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour.
“Last Saturday was an awful Saturday to me. Awful. All the athletes, all the fighters on this card prepared for these fights very seriously, but [there was] a lot of chaos during the last week. I think it’s a terrible situation.”
Jingliang was unquestionably the unluckiest of the six welterweights who found themselves at the center of the chaos surrounding UFC 279. First, the 34-year-old veteran was stripped of the chance to show off his flashy new suit when a backstage melee between Khamzat Chimaev, Nate Diaz, and Kevin Holland resulted in the cancellation of the event’s pre-fight press conference. Then, Jingliang lost out on a massive opportunity when he was swapped out of a scheduled matchup against former UFC interim champion Tony Ferguson following Chimaev’s dramatic weight miss on the afternoon before UFC 279.
While Ferguson ended up fighting Diaz in UFC 279’s impromptu main event, and Chimaev met Holland in the card’s new co-main event, Jingliang was instead relegated to a last-second matchup against Rodriguez, who’d already tipped the scales at 179 pounds for a scheduled catchweight bout — nearly 10 pounds heavier than Jingliang.
“I made weight. Tony made weight. Why don’t [they] let us fight? It’s not our fault. So why? Tony fought Nate as the main event — why don’t they let me fight Nate? It’s unfair. I cannot accept that,” Jingliang said.
“The only option I have at that time [was Rodriguez]. I did everything I should do. I made weight and was ready for the fight. But they missed weight, they fought backstage. So why did they [make] me take this responsibility and change my opponent? I don’t think it’s fair.
“You know MMA,” Jingliang continued. “You know who performed [best on] fight night among all of the six fighters, who performed better. September 10, it’s the autumn festival in China, so it’s a festival we celebrate with all the family gathered together celebrate this festival. And during that day, I’m still here preparing for the fight, far away from my family. I came to the U.S., [have been here] since April to get ready. So I sacrificed a lot and I just put everything I can do for this fight, and then this was what happens during this week.
“Nate fights Tony, OK, fine. And Khamzat fought Kevin, OK, they can solve their problem inside the octagon, that’s fine too. But how about me? I fought ‘D-Rod,’ almost 10 pounds heavier than me. And it’s not his fault, because he made weight to fight Kevin Holland. And it’s not my fault either, I made weight. So both of us, we don’t have options.”
Jingliang said he weighed himself before heading the arena on Saturday and was only 183 pounds. He estimated that it felt in the fight as if Rodriguez “was like 195 or 200” pounds.
Yet Jingliang still nearly won. An overwhelming majority of the fan and media scores on MMADecisions.com scored the first two rounds for “The Leech.” But the two of the three judges disagreed, and that was enough for Jingliang to leave with half of his paycheck.
“Of course I think I won the fight,” Jingliang said. “I won the fight. ... When Bruce Buffer declared a result, I couldn’t believe that. I couldn’t believe that. It’s already an awful matchup, and the result was worse. And I think it just [is an] injustice. I can accept a loss, that’s fine. But please tell me why, why I lost the fight. Please, the three judges, tell me why you think I lost the fight. Tell me. Explain to me, please.
“Just to know why, I want to sit with the judges and let them explain to me how they score a fight, the criteria. Explain it to me. Let me understand. If I understand this sport wrong, correct me, please. I believe I won the fight. Dana [White] believed I won the fight. All the fans believed I won the fight.”
Despite the disappointment, Jingliang said he still hopes to fight again in 2022 and called for a matchup against Jorge Masvidal. He also noted that, unlike some of UFC 279’s other main players, his wallet didn’t exactly benefit from the last-second opponent switch.
“Some fans mentioned that OK, I took this fight, the UFC may pay me a huge amount of extra money. But the case was not like that,” Jingliang said.
“Dana just called me before the fight and said he owed me a main event or a co-main event. He didn’t say an exact time when and where, but I need that. I think I need the opportunity, the bigger stage to show myself.”
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