The Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) announced Monday that it would be launching an investigation, with the help of the UFC, into several fights that broke out backstage before the scheduled UFC 279 news conference last Thursday.
UFC president Dana White ended up having to cancel the promotional event because of the skirmishes.
“If the Nevada Athletic Commission determines that licensees acted improperly, we will initiate appropriate disciplinary action against all involved,” NSAC chairman Stephen J. Cloobeck wrote in a statement.
The catalyst for the altercations was a near brawl between UFC fighters Khamzat Chimaev and Kevin Holland. The two were not even scheduled to fight each other at UFC 279, though that changed a day later.
Before the news conference backstage at MGM Grand Garden Arena, Chimaev approached Holland aggressively, resulting in words exchanged and Holland pushing him away as people attempted to get between them, sources told ESPN. Chimaev then threw a front kick that appeared to land to Holland’s body. Security and others, including UFC fighter Li Jingliang, worked to separate the two men, per sources.
One of those helping security was former fighter and current MMA agent Tiki Ghosn, who grabbed Chimaev in an effort to get him away from Holland. Chimaev’s originally scheduled UFC 279 opponent was Nate Diaz. When Diaz and his team saw Ghosn standing near Chimaev, Diaz assumed Ghosn — whom he considered a friend — was part of Chimaev’s group. That caused several members of Diaz’s team to throw water bottles at Ghosn, igniting another near fracas.
Only Holland and original opponent Daniel Rodriguez made it to the stage for the news conference before White shut the whole thing down for the sake of safety. Chimaev missed weight by 7.5 pounds Friday morning, resulting in a reshuffling of the card: Diaz fought Tony Ferguson, Chimaev faced Holland, and Rodriguez and Li fought each other.
The UFC did not discipline any fighters for the altercations, though the NSAC has indicated it could do so — perhaps in a very significant way.
“The Nevada Athletic Commission will strictly discipline all licensees for all incidents of physical violence between athletes outside the ring or cage, up to and including purse forfeiture, revocation or suspension of any current license, denial of applications for new applicants, or denying future license renewals,” Cloobeck wrote.