Li Jingliang details backstage melee that led to UFC 279 press conference cancellation: ‘Complete chaos’


Li Jingliang had a front-row seat to the chaos that led to the cancellation of UFC 279’s pre-fight press conference.

The incident unfolded on the Thursday ahead of UFC 279 and involved Khamzat Chimaev, Kevin Holland, Nate Diaz, and members of their respective teams. UFC president Dana White said an altercation between Holland and Chimaev was the initial spark for the situation, which then erupted into a much larger fracas that forced White to cancel the press event “for everybody’s safety.” Clips have since trickled out of the melee, and on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour, Jingliang gave his first-hand account of what he saw.

“We red corner were on [one] side [of the arena], so when we were waiting for the press conference, we made a line. Through a translator Jingliang said that Holland was the first and I am the second. “And when Khamzat came in, in my eyes, he was trying to say hello to us, so he come up to me and then went to Kevin, and in my eyes he was trying to say hello to Kevin. But I don’t know why, maybe Kevin felt he was a little bit aggressive, and then he just pushed him — Kevin pushed Khamzat. Khamzat then went backwards, kicked Holland and then they started to fight.

“So everybody was shocked. Then I grabbed Khamzat. I then separated Khamzat from Khamzat. Khamzat was shocked. Not today, bro. Not today.’ So it’s complete chaos there. … Then everybody comes — the securities, even Dana [White]. These two were separated, but they are still one another

That wasn’t the end of the drama, though.

In an effort to calm things down, the UFC then audibled to splitting the six fighters into pairs and bringing them onstage two at time. Holland and Daniel Rodriguez went up first.

But then tensions boiled over backstage all over again.

“Dana went on the stage and they changed the plan, so they let Kevin and ‘D-Rod’ get onto the stage first to separate everybody,” Jingliang said. “… But while Kevin and ‘D-Rod’ were on the stage, we were waiting in the backstage, Nate came with his crew.

“I can’t remember how many people, maybe 10 or more. Then he [said] some to Khamzat. I then saw Nate throwing a waterbottle to Khamzat .”

The resulting chaos between Diaz’s team and Chimaev proved to be the breaking point for the UFC, as White swiftly called the whole press conference off.

The Nevada Athletic Commission announced Monday that it will investigate and possibly penalize those involved in the incident.

Who was the greatest victim? It may have been Jingliang, as the 34-year-old veteran didn’t get a chance to show off a flashy new suit that went viral as soon as photos went online.

“We only fight two or three times every year, and this I think was one of the biggest events in my career,” Jingliang said. “So of course I wanted to show my best to everybody. That’s why I chose to wear the suit .”