Back in late January, UFC lightweight Ottman Azaitar was gearing up for a bout against Matt Frevola on Fight Island. However, the fight – scheduled to take place on the UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor undercard – was cancelled at the last minute by the UFC.
Fights falling apart just before their scheduled event is hardly a rarity in the UFC of 2020 & 2021, but what happened with Azaitar on January 23rd seemed like a real mystery. Initially reported that the Moroccan-born fighter out of Germany had broken COVID-19 ‘bubble’ protocols, UFC president Dana White later revealed that Azaitar had seemingly engaged in a bit of subterfuge in order to have a bag smuggled into his room, past security.
“He and his team cut their wristbands off and got them to people on the outside,” White told MMA Junkie shortly after news of the bout cancellation. “One guy—this guy got inside the bubble, went in through a room, shimmied down four balconies, went in through (Azaitar’s) balcony, and dropped off a bag of we don’t know what. Then he changed his clothes and went back outside of the bubble. We got everything on camera, we saw the whole thing, and how it all went down, pulled his fight and cut him.”
For an act that, at the time, appeared to have cost Azaitar his job, readers could be excused for assuming that – whatever was in that bag – it was either highly valuable, or highly necessary. For their part, however, Azaitar’s team maintained that the whole thing was just a simple misunderstanding.
And while the UFC did eventually reverse course and and decide to keep ‘Bulldozer’ on the roster, that still left the mystery of the bag unsolved. Just what was it that Azaitar was trying to slip past authorities?
The answer? At least according to Azaitar’s manager, was a decidedly tame one.
“Potatoes,” Azaitar’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, told Yahoo Sports. “It was potatoes in the bag.”
Abdelaziz went on to say that Dana White conducted a full investigation into the incident before deciding not to release Azaitar. And while it seems like a difficult idea to square with White’s initial explanation of the situation, Abdelaziz added that – in his opinion – Azaitar wasn’t necessarily trying to bypass Fight Island security.
“He’s a UFC fighter. He was never cut officially from the UFC. Let’s remember when you have media start asking about stuff, Dana wears his heart on his sleeve. Nobody can violate the bubble. I don’t think everything that happened was intentional. At the end of the day, it’s over. I’m not saying who’s wrong or who’s right. Dana thankfully brought him back, and everything is good.”
If all of that sounds a bit too much to be believed, for the moment it appears to be the only explanation we’re going to get. Ottman Azaitar nearly lost his UFC contract over a bag of potatoes. Hopefully next time he just calls for room service.
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