UFC scraps press event after Chechen star involved in backstage brawls (VIDEO)
The UFC was forced to cancel its UFC 279 news conference at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday after what president Dana White described as a "s**t show" ensued when several brawls occurred between fighters backstage.
White tried to keep the media event going and planned to bring up the six main fighters scheduled to speak in pairs.
As welterweight contender Kevin Holland and Daniel Rodriguez were speaking to reporters about their bout, however, White had to cancel the event entirely.
As White explained, this was due to confrontations between Holland and Khamzat Chimaev plus Chimaev's opponent in the headline bout, Nate Diaz, and former-fighter-turned agent Tiki Ghosn.
"It was a complete s**t show," White stated.
"For everybody's safety, this is the right decision."This has never happened in the history of the UFC. Dana cancels the UFC 279 press conference midway due to fights erupting backstage with Nate Diaz and Khamzat Chimaev. pic.twitter.com/GXoyRZPP29— MAIN EVENT (@MainEventTV) September 9, 2022
Dana White describes the "complete s*** show" backstage that led to the #UFC279 press conference being cancelled.White confirms that an altercation between Khamzat Chimaev and Kevin Holland kicked it off. pic.twitter.com/UaG7AcC9k2— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) September 9, 2022
Though they are not fighting one another on Saturday's card, the fact that Chimaev and Holland clashed is no surprise given they have gone at each other on social media and in separate interviews across recent history.
This week, Holland questioned Chimaev's credentials and suggested that the 28-year-old is fake for acting friendly behind closed doors but putting on a tough guy act when the camera are rolling.
"He only does this extra 'wannabe' street s**t when the media's around," Holland said.
According to sources who spoke to ESPN, Sweden-based Chechen Chimaev made for Holland backstage which led to shoving between the men and those nearby trying to separate them.
Chimaev then allegedly hit Holland with a front kick and was dragged away by a suited-and-booted Li Jingliang – who had been brushing up on his English in order to speak before a crowd ahead of his fight with Tony Ferguson – prior to Holland reportedly giving chase to his attacker.
On Twitter, Holland addressed the row by saying: "Just so everyone knows. I offered that clown a free beard trim. I don’t know anywhere in the US that would offer that service free!
"I am precise, I promise I would not knick him. At your service just like the hotel staff, bro," he added, in reference to a 2020 dig from Chimaev when he quipped that Holland was a hotel staff member.
Kevin Holland says Khamzat Chimaev acts fake."He only does this extra 'wannabe' street sh*t when the media's around."#UFC279 | Full video: https://t.co/z3dQRwfF3spic.twitter.com/9kHSESIf7z— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) September 7, 2022
Two years after Khamzat Chimaev called Kevin Holland a member of the hotel staff, Holland offered him "service" 👀 pic.twitter.com/ynJIJR9eur— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) September 9, 2022
Sharing a tweet from Ariel Helwani, Holland also refuted that Chimaev had kicked him by remarking: "That’s weird I didn’t feel a thing. UFC Stats Bot please update this as a failed attempt via Chimaev."
Ghosn was also in the mix, with White saying it was a good job that the 45-year-old was there to help out.
Later on, however, Diaz saw Ghosn with Chimaev and thought that he formed part of Chimaev's entourage.
This led to Diaz's camp yelling at Ghosn and then throwing water bottles at him and Chimaev's team, with White confirming how some of the objects struck Ghosn in the head and that he also received slaps and kicks.
Furthermore, footage on social media has shown that confrontations continued in the lobby after the canceled press conference.
Tensions between Kevin Holland and Chimaev's team continued in the lobby after the press conference, followed by a friendly cameo from Holland's opponent Daniel Rodriguez.📹 via IG/chrisslowens pic.twitter.com/ilyL2DGY4n— Aaron Bronsteter (@aaronbronsteter) September 9, 2022
"If it wasn't for Tiki, we would have been in big trouble," White explained. "Tiki took a couple for the team and he wasn't on the team."
In a bid to avoid a repeat of such incidents, White has vowed that UFC press conferences will have more security moving forward, and the weigh-ins and Saturday's card will also be better prepared.
Trouble aside, nobody will be disciplined for their part in the scuffles and none of the fights at UFC 279 have been jeopardized.
"This is what we do," said White. "This is the business we're in.
"This is the fight business. These things happen. What we do is look at how this happened today – why were we unprepared for this? Why were we not able to manage this backstage better than we did?" White posed.
"And we'll be better next time we do a press conference. This will never happen to us again," he promised.