The official press conference for UFC 279 descended into absolute mayhem and was quickly cancelled after an ‘absolute s***show’ behind the scenes where rival fighters brawled backstage.
The Las Vegas press conference started over half an hour late with no notice or explanation, until UFC boss Dana White opened the delayed press conference by declaring: “Absolute s***show back there.”
“There’s lots of crazy s**t back there,” he added. The press conference lasted just five minutes and featured only two fighters before White pulled the plug in chaotic scenes.
A fight broke out between rival camps backstage, which White later confirmed began between Khamzat Chimaev and Kevin Holland – the “catalysts” – and spiralled to include other fighters.
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“There were multiple things going on at the same time. It wasn’t just one thing that erupted,” he said. “Once it all started erupting, it was a complete s***show.”
Four of the six fighters scheduled to appear on-stage at the press conference (Kevin Holland, Daniel Rodriguez, Nate Diaz, Khamzat Chimaev, Tony Ferguson, and Li Jingliang) were involved in the brawl, the UFC chief confirmed.
White told reporters afterwards: “It got very physical, multiple fighters got involved.”
Holland took to Twitter to claim he offered Chimaev a ‘free beard trim’: “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.”
“There was lots of stuff before we went out,” White said, but added there were MORE fights during the press conference. “That was why I stopped it.”
Asked if he was caught in the middle of it, White said: “Yeah, I was just trying to tell everybody: ‘What the f*** are you doing. What’s going on? Stop!’”
White confirmed no fighters were injured, and added no fighters would be fined or penalised: “No guys, this is what we do. We’re in the fight business. These things happen.”
White added that even UFC manager Tiki Ghosn was involved in the mayhem.
“Tiki took a couple for the team and he’s not even on a team. Tiki took a couple water bottles to the head, a couple slaps, kicks.”
The UFC boss also revealed that Khamzat Chimaev and Nate Diaz’s teams comprised of over 100 people backstage.
He confirmed that the weigh-ins and the main event would go ahead as planned, but with greatly increased security.
THE PRESS CONFERENCE
Instead of the usual format of having all key fighters on stage, White declared the fighters would come out in pairs.
But only Kevin Holland and Daniel Rodriguez came out on stage for a brief interview before the event was abandoned entirely “for everyone’s safety,” as White said.
White looked completely frazzled and visibly furious, before his personal security guard intervened. White appeared to tell him “F**k it. Wrap. Wrap it.”
He told the expectant crowd: “Yeah, this ain’t going to happen. I apologise everybody. I am in very weird waters here. This has never happened in the history of this company. Trust me when I tell you this is the right decision not to do this press conference right now.”
Boos rained down, and White couldn’t help but agree with the fans’ furious reaction.
“I hear ya, I’m with ya. For everybody’s safety, this is the right decision. I apologise.”
He later said: “This is the craziest press conference we’ve ever had, that’s for sure… This is a first and I guarantee you it will be the last.”
Popular fighter Tony Ferguson later emerged to greet the crowd to great cheers.
Chimaev had told ESPN earlier in the week he was ready to fight Diaz and his team before the main event.
“If they wanna fight before (Saturday), f*ck the money, brother, I’m gonna fight with them. I love to fight,” Chimaev told ESPN. “I’ve been born for war. I’m inside a warrior, don’t care. When the fights come, you don’t care about money or what’s behind it, just fight.
“If he wants to fight there with his team, I have like 20 guys with me. We’ll fight with all the teams, you know. I hope so. I would love if it happens, something crazy things there. His team is old, brother. My team is fresh. We kill this. His team almost handicapped, brother.”
Originally published as UFC 279: Press conference abandoned after backstage brawl