LAS VEGAS – The UFC 279 press conference was canceled on Thursday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena after several brawls erupted backstage between fighters on the map and their teams.
UFC President Dana White tried to keep the press conference going by bringing the six fighters out 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 canceled the event altogether.
White said in a media spat following the cancellation that the skirmishes were started by Khamzat Chimaev and Holland, who will not be fighting each other at UFC 279 on Saturday night. None of the fighters required medical attention and, according to White, none of the fights planned for the card are at risk.
“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 for Thursday’s press conference, leading to some pushing and people trying to separate the two before Chimaev hit him with a front kick. Chimaev was pulled away by Li Jingliang, who will be fighting Tony Ferguson on Saturday, and former fighter and MMA cop Tiki Ghosn, as well as security. White said it was good that Ghosn was there to help. Holland gave chase when the two 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 some members of Diaz’s team threw water bottles at Ghosn and Chimaev’s team.
According to White, Ghosn was hit on the head by some water bottles and also received some blows and kicks.
“Had it not been for Tiki, we would have been in big trouble,” White said. “Tiki took a few for the team and he wasn’t on the team.”
White said press conferences will be more secure from now on and the UFC will be better prepared for Friday’s 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 that we’re in. This is the fighting business. These things are happening. What we’re doing is looking at how this happened today — why weren’t we prepared for this? Why weren’t we able to do this backstage better? then we’ve done that? And the next time we hold a press conference, we’ll be better. This will never happen to us again.”
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