UFC nixes presser after fighters tussle backstage

MMA news

LAS VEGAS — The UFC 279 news conference was canceled Thursday at MGM Grand Garden Arena after several altercations broke out backstage among fighters on the card and their teams.

UFC president Dana White attempted to keep the news conference going by bringing up the six fighters separately in twos, per fight. But after Kevin Holland and Daniel Rodriguez spoke to reporters and fans in attendance about their fight on the pay-per-view card, White scrapped the event altogether.

White said in a media scrum following the cancellation that the skirmishes were started by Khamzat Chimaev and Holland, who are not fighting each other Saturday night at UFC 279. None of the fighters required medical attention, and according to White, none of the fights scheduled for the card are in jeopardy.

“It was a complete s—show,” White said.

Chimaev and Holland have been going back and forth on social media and in interviews for months.

Sources told ESPN that Chimaev approached Holland backstage before Thursday’s news conference, leading to some shoving and people trying to separate the two before Chimaev hit Holland with a front kick. Chimaev was pulled away by Li Jingliang, who fights Tony Ferguson on Saturday, and former fighter and MMA agent Tiki Ghosn, as well as security. White said that it was good Ghosn was there to help. Holland then gave chase as the two were separated, sources said.

Nate Diaz faces Chimaev in the main event of UFC 279. When members of Diaz’s team saw Ghosn with Chimaev, they thought Ghosn was part of Chimaev’s team and started yelling at him, according to sources. Sources said that some members of Diaz’s team threw water bottles at Ghosn and Chimaev’s team.

According to White, Ghosn was struck in the head by some water bottles and also took some slaps and kicks.

“If it wasn’t for Tiki, we would have been in big trouble,” White said. “Tiki took a couple for the team and he wasn’t on the team.”

White said from now on news conferences will have more security and that the UFC will be better prepared Friday for the weigh-ins and Saturday’s fight night. No one will be disciplined, White said.

“This is what we do,” White said. “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? And we’ll be better next time we do a press conference. This will never happen to us again.”

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