"It's bad, he's gone, he's no longer a UFC fighter."
Dana White explains why Ottman Azaitar has been cut from the UFC following a health and safety breach at #UFC257. pic.twitter.com/UO3aJbLUWO — UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) January 22, 2021
Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream UFC 257 live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.
The entire MMA community is waiting on pins and needles wondering what was in the bag that cost ex-Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight Ottman Azaitar his career.
Azaitar was not present for the UFC 257 weigh-ins, and the promotion announced on Friday morning that his main card match with Matt Frevola had been canceled. As it turned out, the Moroccan was not pulled due to COVID or a weight cut-related reason, but instead for violating the promotion's health and safety protocols.
In a statement, the UFC wrote that, “UFC is aware of a recent violation of the health and safety protocols involving Ottman Azaitar. As such, Azaitar has been removed from the safety zone and his upcoming bout against Matt Frevola has been canceled. The organization continues to keep the health and safety of all participants as the top priority and will take action against anyone that does not adhere to the strict measure put in place.”
More information came to light from a gobsmacked UFC President Dana White, who told BT Sport that, “It’s pretty amazing, actually.” After asking a UFC official if they had been given the green light to “tell the story” on what actually happened, White went into detail.
“So [Azaitar] and his team cut off their wristbands, gave them to somebody outside the bubble – I don’t know how they even did it – that guy taped them, showed up here with a bag, went into a room, shimmied across four balconies, went into his room, dropped the bag off, changed his clothes, and then left. Now, when security tried to stop him, he wouldn’t stop. Either way, it’s just…yeah, [Azaitar]’s gone. [Azaitar]’s no longer a UFC fighter, and he’s not fighting tonight,” White said firmly.
Frevola lost his opponent, but in a stroke of luck, another lightweight on the card found himself without a foe as well for the card. Arman Tsarukyan was set to face Nasrat Haqparast, but Haqparast fell ill and was unable to attend weigh-ins, so his bout was also canceled. Tsarukyan came in one pound heavy and was fined 20 percent of his purse, although it could not go to his opponent as Haqparast did not make weight himself. With Frevola and Tsarukyan opponentless, the promotion matched them up to headline the preliminary portion of the event at a 157-pound catchweight. The middleweight bout between Andrew Sanchez and Makhmud Muradov has since been elevated on the main card.
Azaitar has not yet made a statement, and the contents of the mysterious bag have not been disclosed.
UFC 257 will go down on Jan. 23 at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The now 11-fight offering will still be capped off by a lightweight rematch pitting Conor McGregor against Dustin Poirier. The co-headliner sees another major lightweight match as Dan Hooker welcomes Michael Chandler to the promotion. The featured fight of the night draws a women’s flyweight tilt when Jessica Eye takes on Joanne Calderwood.