UFC 279 Backstage Drama: What Actually Happened

In the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s hastily cancelled UFC 279 pre-fight press conference it was clear that behind-the-scenes backstage drama had been the issue, but with lots of rumors flying around it wasn’t clear exactly what happened, but since then details have emerged from multiple sources.

ESPN reporter Ariel Helwani was able to get in touch with sources close to those involved and provided an update of what went down, confirming that punches, kicks, bottles and other objects had been thrown.

“Khamzat Chimaev push kicked Holland in the chest,” Helwani wrote on Twitter. “Chimaev was reacting to things Holland has said recently and it set him off, I’m told. Once that was broken up the Chimaev-Diaz part of the story popped off and then the bottles started flying.”

Helwani also revealed in a video you can watch below that former UFC fighter turned manager Tiki Ghosn was also backstage at the time and managed to get inbetween the two and break up the altercation. Dana White had also thanked Tiki during his post-brawl media scrum, saying it would have gotten a lot worse if he hadn’t got involved.

However, as that situation was dying down, Nate Diaz and his crew emerged and things sparked off again, with water bottles being thrown back and forth between Diaz and Khamzat’s people, which is what led to the plug being pulled on the entire press conference.

“General sentiment seems to be that it could have been MUCH worse but was also a very ugly scene, if that makes sense. Much worse in that people could have gotten seriously hurt,” Helwani wrote. “Luckily, not hearing anyone was seriously hurt at this time.”

Some of the fighters involved have also commented on the situation, including the apparent instigator of the physical confrontation, Khamzat Chimaev.

“I told them: Don’t joke with us,” Chimaev said (in Russian). “Kevin got what he deserved. Diaz got what he deserved.”

Meanwhile, Holland denied that Chimaev had actually made contact with him.

“That’s weird I didn’t feel a thing 🤷🏿‍♂️,” Holland wrote in response to Helwani’s report about Khamzat teep kicking him. “@UFCStatsBot please update this as a failed attempt via Chimaev.”

While no footage from the alleged brawl has so far emerged, a video of Holland and Khamzat’s teammate Darren Till getting involved in what appeared to be a verbal confrontation some time after the presser has been released.

Till has since spoken out about his perspective on the whole situation, saying that the two entourages for Diaz and Khamzat had been held in a separate room from the fighters prior to the press conference, so he hadn’t actually seen what happened.

He also revealed that his chat with Holland had occurred because Khamzat’s team and Holland are also staying at the same hotel and so Till was attempting to assure him that they weren’t looking for trouble with him, particularly since Khamzat’s entourage heavily outnumbered him.

Ross launched MMA Insight (previously FightOfTheNight.com) in 2009 as a way to channel his passion for the sport of mixed martial arts. He's since penned countless news stories and live fight reports along with dozens of feature articles as the lead writer for the site, reaching millions of fans in the process.