Nevada Athletic Commission Investigating UFC For Las Vegas Press Conference Melee

Reports of physical violence between Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighters behind the scenes at a press conference in Las Vegas last week have triggered an official investigation by the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC). The UFC 279 press conference on Sept. 8 was canceled not long after it started, due to a reported out-of-control altercation backstage.

UFC President Dana White
UFC President Dana White
A seemingly dumbfounded Dana White, president of UFC, cancels the press conference for UFC 279 soon after it gets underway on Sept. 8, 2022. (Image:

According to the MMA Junkie blog at USA Today, fighter Khamzat Chimaev got into it with Kevin Holland, who shared the same card as him (with a scheduled bout against Daniel Rodriguez). Chimaev push-kicked Holland in the chest, according to the blog, sparking a backstage brawl in which Chimaev also took on his official opponent, Nate Diaz. (Chimaev went on to win — their official bout, at least.)

Tempers had already been flaring, according to reports, as Chimaev had missed weight, forcing the UFC to create three new fights at the 11th hour. In addition, Chimeav had already suggested he was up for fighting before his scheduled fight.

“If they wanna fight before, (expletive) the money, brother, I’m gonna fight with them,” he said during an interview with ESPN. “I love to fight. 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.”

Fighting Words from Nevada Athletic Commission

“Although ‘trash talking’ between competitive athletes is common, any escalation into physical altercations may discredit the sport of unarmed combat and is wholly unacceptable,” NAC Chairman Stephen Cloobeck said in a statement. “Further, such behavior may expose participants to both civil and criminal liability. The Nevada Athletic Commission will act strongly and decisively to safeguard and elevate unarmed combat in Nevada.”

White canceled the presser just after bringing out Holland and Rodriguez. In a video tweeted by UFC, he can be seen telling fans and media assembled at the MGM Grand Garden Arena: “Yeah, this ain’t gonna happen. I apologize, everybody. I am in very weird waters here. This has never happened in the history of this company.”

When the crowd began booing, White replied: “Trust me when I tell you, this is the right decision not to do this press conference right now. For everybody’s safety, this is the right decision.”

UFC fighter Darren Till downplayed the controversy. “It’s nothing, it’s just team vs. team,” he said in an interview with YouTube channel The MacLife. “It’s like they’re gonna protect Nate and we’re gonna protect Khamzat and it’s team vs. team. That’s all it is.”

However, the NAC is not backing down. Cloobeck wrote in his statement that the NAC would “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.

“We expect professional fighters in Nevada to comport themselves as professionals,” Cloobeck wrote.

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