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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 3 March 2021

'The Bulldozer is back' - Ottman Azaitar reprieved by UFC after Abu Dhabi Fight Island breach

Lightweight was pulled from UFC 257 in January and told he would be released from contract

Ottman Azaitar punches Khama Worthy in a lightweight UFC fight in Las Vegas, Nevada, in September 2020. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Ottman Azaitar punches Khama Worthy in a lightweight UFC fight in Las Vegas, Nevada, in September 2020. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

The UFC has decided not to release Ottman Azaitar from the promotion following his reported Covid-19 protocol breach during Fight Island in Abu Dhabi last month.

The Moroccan-German, 31, was removed from his January 24 bout against Matt Frevola at UFC 257 the day before the clash after UFC president Dana White said Azaitar had come into contact with someone outside the safety zone “bubble” on Yas Island. White told various media outlets that the unbeaten lightweight would be released from his contract.

However, ESPN reported late on Saturday that White had opted to give Azaitar a “second chance”, with the fighter later writing on Instagram: “Surround yourself with great people. I'm always grateful to everyone who was involved in this situation. The Bulldozer is back.”

Speaking also to ESPN, Azaitar's manager Ali Abdelaziz described the situation as a "misunderstanding," and thanked White for keeping Azaitar on the company’s roster. Azaitar has not spoken publicly about the incident.

Last month, the UFC reported Azaitar had been pulled from the UFC 257 card for a "violation of the health and safety protocols" at the W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island, where the fighters and other UFC delegates where based.

White told BT Sport that an unauthorised individual had entered the fighter hotel with a wristband given by Azaitar to deliver a bag to the fighter’s room.

“It’s pretty amazing, actually,” White said at the time. “He and his team cut off their wristbands, gave them to somebody outside the bubble - I don’t know how they even did it.

“That guy taped them, showed up here with a bag, went into a room, shimmied across four balconies, went in his room, dropped the bag off, changed his clothes, and then left.

“When security tried to stop him, he wouldn’t stop either way, and it’s just bad... he’s gone. He’s no longer a UFC fighter and he’s not fighting [at UFC 257].”

Azaitar is undefeated in 13 professional bouts and stands at 2-0 since signing for the UFC in 2019. Both victories came via first-round knockouts.

His promotional debut took place in Abu Dhabi, at UFC 242 in September 2019. UFC 257 was the closing event in the third Fight Island series to take place in the capital.

Azaitar at UFC 242

Published: February 21, 2021 11:51 AM

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