An altercation between Khamzat Chimaev and Kevin Holland sparked a backstage melee that ultimately led to the UFC 279 pre-fight press conference being cancelled on Thursday.
That is according to UFC President Dana White who said that the first incident between Chimaev & Holland led to problems which only escalated when he took to the stage at MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas.
Multiple witnesses claim that Chimaev started the fight when he kicked Holland in the backstage. The incident that Chimaev allegedly launched was what led to a larger problem as security tried to control everything. The people who spoke to MMA Fighting about the incident asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
“Yeah [it was Khamzat Chimaev and Kevin Holland that started it],” White told reporters backstage. There were many things happening simultaneously. There were many things going on simultaneously. Many things were going at once .”
Chimaev had been exchanging insults with Holland in interviews and on social media during the week leading to UFC 279,. They reportedly became involved in a close-to-altercation at UFC Vegas 21 in 2021..
“So there was security over there, there was no security over there,” White continued. White continued, “There wasn’t security over there because everybody was dealing the other thing. Once it started erupting it was just an escalation.”
White blamed a lack of security along with the overwhelming number of people backstage that led to the situation spiraling out of control. Tiki Ghosn, a former UFC fighter and now athlete manager, helped calm the situation by getting between warring teams.
” Without Tiki we’d have been in serious trouble,” White stated. Tiki took two water bottles for the team, and now he isn’t even part of the team. Tiki held a few water bottles on his head and did a few slaps and kicks. Thank you Tiki .”
Multiple sources confirmed that Holland, along with Daniel Rodriguez, went to the podium to begin the press conference. However, a second incident erupted that involved Chimaev and Diaz as well as their respective teams.
It’s not clear if any additional fighting broke out, but water bottles were thrown between Chimaev and Diaz’s camps, according to sources, which was at least part of the reason why White ultimately decided to cancel the press conference before things got more out of hand.
” If you are aware that there may be men who don’t get along with each other, make sure they have their own space and have security.” White said. “You know how Nate and Khamzat are, they could have some words and we have enough people here to deal with it.
” We didn’t have enough people to allow everyone to fight. When everybody starts fighting and there was more than just fighting going on that security was dealing with. We weren’t prepared.”
White said security will be stepped up to allow future press conferences and also that he would address issues such as the limit on the number of fighters allowed to attend events like this.
Ultimately, White stated that nobody was hurt during the melee and the fights would move forward as scheduled on Saturday night. He added he didn’t plan to hand down any punishments to the fighters involved in the various altercations, but he absolutely wanted to prevent anything like this from happening again.
” This is what we do,” White stated. This is what we do. This is fight business. These things happen.”