NAC investigating UFC 279 presser melee, threatens disciplinary action

The Nevada Athletic Commission is investigating the UFC 279 presser melee and could penalize those involved in the incident, the regulator announced Monday.

“If the Nevada Athletic Commission determines that licensees acted improperly, we will initiate appropriate disciplinary action against all involved,” NAC Chairman Stephen Cloobeck wrote in a prepared statement.

Cloobeck said those found to have acted improperly face purse forfeiture, revocation or suspension of their current Nevada fight license, denial of applications for new applicants or denial of a future license.

“Although ‘trash talking’ between competitive athletes is common, any escalation into physical altercations may discredit the sport of unarmed combat and is wholly unacceptable,” the NAC chairman wrote. “Further, such behavior may expose participants to both civil and criminal liability. The Nevada Athletic Commission will act strongly and decisively to safeguard and elevate unarmed combat in Nevada.”

The statement arrives four days after the cancellation of the media event following a backstage incident involving UFC 279 headliners Khamzat Chimaev, Kevin Holland, Nate Diaz and several members of their camps. A flustered UFC President Dana White indicated something had happened before the start of the presser and later called it off when he said the environment was no longer safe. He later confirmed an encounter between Chimaev and Holland was the catalyst for the melee.

Several accounts of the incident, including reporting from MMA Fighting, said that the initial confrontation spread to Diaz and his team, who allegedly threw water bottles at Chimaev, his scheduled opponent in UFC 279’s headliner. Until the day of the pay-per-view event on Saturday, however, there was little footage that had surfaced to illuminate what exactly happened. Then the UFC and its broadcast partner ESPN released a video that appeared to show Chimaev kicking Holland; Chimaev’s coach said on social media that the Chechen fighter gave “a boot in the chest” of Holland.

After Chimaev missed weight by 7.5 pounds for his headliner with Diaz, he was rebooked to face Holland and won their co-headliner by first-round submission. Diaz went on to face Tony Ferguson and earned a fourth-round submission win.

White said the UFC will provide more security in the future to avoid confrontations between fighters and their camps; he said the situation at the press conference got out of control because they were operating with a “skeleton crew.”

The NAC has previously sanctioned those involved in press conference melees; its statutes also allow for disciplinary action against those who are deemed to have discredited unarmed combat. In 2014, it fined and ordered community service for Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier after they brawled at a media event for their scheduled UFC 178 meeting. The commission handed down fines and suspensions to all those involved in the infamous post-fight melee between Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor and their respective teams at UFC 229.

Below is the commission’s full statement.

Nevada State Athletic Commission Chairman Stephen J. Cloobeck, and Executive Director Jeff Mullen are aware that the UFC Press Conference on Thursday, September 8, 2022, was canceled midway through the event. Early reports indicate that an altercation took place prior to and during the press conference, and possibly involved licensed fighters and their associates.

The Chairman has been in communications with UFC executives regarding the events of September 8th. At this time, the UFC is working with the Nevada Athletic Commission on a full investigation into this incident. If the Nevada Athletic Commission determines that licensees acted improperly, we will initiate appropriate disciplinary action against all involved.

Although “trash talking” between competitive athletes is common, any escalation into physical altercations may discredit the sport of unarmed combat and is totally unacceptable. Further, such behavior may expose participants to both civil and criminal liability. The Nevada Athletic Commission will act strongly and decisively to safeguard and elevate unarmed combat in Nevada.

The Nevada Athletic Commission will strictly discipline all licensees for all incidents of physical violence between athletes outside the ring or cage, up to and including purse forfeiture, revocation or suspension of any current license, denial of applications for new applicants, or denying future license renewals .

We expect professional fighters in Nevada to behave like professionals.

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