LAS VEGAS — The UFC 279 press conference was canceled Thursday at MGM Grand Garden Arena after several altercations broke out backstage between fighters on the card and their teams.
UFC president Dana White tried to keep the news conference going by taking the six fighters separately in pairs, by fight. But later Kevin Holland and Daniel Rodriguez spoke to reporters and fans in attendance about their fight on the pay-per-view card, White wrote off the incident altogether.
White said in a media scrum after the cancellation that the skirmishes were started by Khamzat Chimaev and Holland, who are not fighting each other Saturday night at UFC 279. Neither fighter required medical attention, and according to White, none of the fights scheduled for the card are in jeopardy.
“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 before the press conference, causing some pushing and people trying to separate the two before Chimaev hit him with a front kick. Chimaev was pulled away from Li Jingliangwho fights Tony Ferguson on Saturday, and a former fighter and MMA agent Tiki Ghosn, as well as security. White said it was good that Ghosn was there to help. Holland then gave chase when the two were 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 that some members of Diaz’s team threw water bottles at Ghosn and Chimaev’s team.
According to White, Ghosn was hit in the head with several water bottles and also took several slaps and kicks.
“If it wasn’t for Tiki, we’d be in big trouble,” White said. “Tiki took a couple for the team and he wasn’t in the team.”
White said from now on press conferences will have more security and that the UFC will be better prepared on Friday for the 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 we’re in. This is the fight business. These things happen. What we’re doing is looking at how this happened today — why were we unprepared for this? Why couldn’t we manage this backstage better than we did did? And we’ll be better next time we do a press conference. This will never happen to us again.”