Top UFC manager accused of trying to suppress questions at Bellator MMA 300

A powerful MMA and UFC manager tried to bully an MMA media member at Bellator 300. It's not the first time it's happened.

By: Tim Bissell | 2 months ago
Top UFC manager accused of trying to suppress questions at Bellator MMA 300
IMAGO/ZUMA Wire/Christopher Trim

MMA and UFC manager Ali Abdelaziz accused of trying to silence reporter at presser

This past weekend a small cadre of MMA media members descended on the Pechanga Arena in San Diego, CA to cover Bellator 300. Those who were there saw tepid stoppages from Liz Carmouche and Cris Cyborg and a dominating decision win by Usman Nurmagomedov.

The MMA media members were then able to ask the winners how they felt about retaining their Bellator MMA titles. Well, most of them were.

Veteran reporter and video producer James Lynch, whose work you can find here, claimed that when he was on the ground in San Diego he was stifled from doing his job by one of the most high profile managers in the sport.

According to Lynch, Ali Abdelaziz, who heads Dominance MMA one of the most powerful management groups in the UFC, attempted to block him from asking questions to his clients during official Bellator press conferences.

“I’m posted up in the back, I have my camera with me, I’m doing interviews, stuff like that,” said Lynch. “Before Usman Nurmagomedov comes to the back, one of Ali Abdelaziz’s right-hand-men, one of the other managers who works for Dominance MMA Firdaws [Khalim] comes up to me and basically tries to intimidate me and says, point blank, ‘You can not ask Usman Nurmagomedov any questions at the press conference,’ which is not really his right. This is a press conference that I got credentials through Bellator, it’s not up to him, despite the fact he’s the manager of Usman, to tell me I can’t ask questions.”

“This is the same guy who threatened to slap me on twitter,” added Lynch. “Didn’t do that on Saturday night, but he came up instead and tried to intimidate me.”

Lynch said he wasn’t planning on asking questions to Nurmagomedov any way. “I was making a point of avoiding [Dominance MMA] fighters because of a situation exactly like this.”

“They are a management company that creates a lot of drama with media members and I didn’t want to be involved with any of that, I just wanted to focus on my coverage and have a good event week and, again, they are just trying to bully and intimidate people like myself.”

This isn’t the first time Lynch has experienced Dominance MMA’s intimidation tactics.

Lynch, like many MMA reporters, is on Dominance MMA’s blacklist. This means he is not permitted to do interviews with any of that company’s clients; which includes some of the biggest names in the sport such as Khabib Nurmagomedov, Kamaru Usman, Justin Gaethje and Islam Makhachev.

Lynch discussed his blacklisting by Abdelaziz in March. You can check that out below.

The video details Lynch and Abdelaziz’s interactions dating back to 2016, after Lynch appeared with Mike Russell on The Parting Shot podcast. Russell is an investigative reporter who has reported on Abdelaziz’s past, as well as important issues such as Tim Hague’s death in a boxing contest in Alberta, Canada.

Lynch said this podcast episode resulted in him being berated by Abdelaziz at UFC 218 in 2017. Lynch said he and Abdelaziz smoothed things out and he was able to interview Dominance MMA fighters for a few years after that.

However, that ended after Lynch did an interview with rival manager Abe Kawa. This was soon after there were reports that Abdelaziz punching Kawa at a PFL event in 2019. Charges against Abdelaziz in that case were dismissed in 2020.

During the interview Lynch and Kawa briefly discussed Abdelaziz. Lynch said soon after he was notified by Dominance MMA that he banned from interviewing their clients in the future.

Lynch said that, despite this, he reached out to Dominance MMA fighters directly and booked a handful of interviews. One of those was an interview with Vicente Luque, which Dominance MMA then demanded he remove from YouTube.

Since then Lynch has decided to avoid featuring Dominance MMA fighters in his work.

Sean Strickland chimes in

You can’t work with Ali Abdelaziz, you have to work for him

Lynch is part of a growing list of media members who are blacklisted by Dominance MMA. Ariel Helwani has had a very public falling out with Abdelaziz and can no longer interview Dominance MMA fighters on The MMA Hour (the biggest MMA show in the industry).

Yours truly, and everyone else at Bloody Elbow, is also banned from interacting with Dominance MMA fighters. Why? Same reason we’re banned from UFC events; we cover what we think is in the public interest, not what we think will enhance our relationships with promoters, managers and fighters.

My personal banning from Dominance MMA fighters came after I made my staff pick entries for 2017’s UFC 216. Here’s what I wrote under both Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis and Magomed Bibulatov vs. John Moraga.

Tim Bissell: I believe the man most likely to win this fight is the individual who has extremely close ties to a warlord turned quasi-dictator who has been systematically threatening, alienating, abusing, tormenting, and reportedly killing LGBTQ+ individuals in the Republic of Chechnya.

Werdum and Bibulatov are both Dominance MMA clients.

I was being cheeky, yes. But I continue to think it’s gross that the UFC platforms fighters who are pawns in Ramzan Kadyrov’s gambits to consolidate power in the North Caucasus and sportswash his image abroad. We’ve covered these connections at length at Bloody Elbow, chiefly through Karim Zidan (who has been threatened by Abdelaziz and his lackeys in the past also).

Here’s what Abdelaziz sent me after those predictions:

“This is why I never give you a chance or opportunity to talk to my guys. Unfair piece of shit all of your colleagues on bloody elbow wrote predictions about the technicality of the fight and you have to say shit to make yourself relevant. I feel sorry for you or people like you. You hide behind the keyboard in your mothers basement and write about shit without enough knowledge. I will always defend the guys I believe are good human being and not judge, and you are horrible for this.”

If I were trying to make myself relevant, I certainly failed at that. And, not that there’s anything wrong with living with your parents (especially in this economy), but I haven’t done that for a very long time. I haven’t interviewed a Dominance MMA client since then because, like Lynch, I don’t think it’s worth the trouble. And guess what?… It hasn’t made a bit of difference in my career or the fortunes of Bloody Elbow.

You don’t need access to cover the sport of MMA. BE is banned from the UFC, yet we remain one of the most popular MMA sites on the internet.

Acquiescing to Abdelaziz and Dana White might give you bragging rights on fight booking scoops and land you interviews where you can ask champions “what’s next for you” or “did he/she do anything that surprised you in there?” but all you’re doing there is PR. And that’s fine if that’s the kind of work you want to do.

But don’t kid yourself and think that you have anything interesting or meaningful to say about this sport or this industry if every time you open your mouth, or lay fingers on your keyboard, you’re thinking about whether or not this statement of fact, or god forgive an opinion, will make someone mad.

So the best way to nullify these bullies is to not give a flip about access being given or taken away and instead work on being able to provide content that is not dependent on regurgitating what other people want you to say.

Either we all do that or we wait for the MMAJA to step in and fix it…

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About the author
Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

Tim is also BE's lead (only) sumo reporter. He blogs about that sport here and on his own substack, Sumo Stomp!

Email me at Nice messages will get a response.

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