Ottman Azaitar isn’t fighting at UFC 257, and it appears he’ll have to shoulder the blame.
During Friday’s early (official) weigh-in in Abu Dhabi, UFC officials announced that Azaitar would not be weighing in for the event. Opponent Matt Frevola did step on the scales, making weight for the card as a backup. Luckily for Frevola, his services will be required after all — with Nasrat Haqparast removed due to illness, “The Steamrolla” now fights Arman Tsarukyan.
What a wild morning. However, the explanation behind lightweight Azaitar’s removal from the UFC 257 card gets even wilder. In a statement released following Friday’s weigh-in, UFC officials revealed that a safety zone violation was behind Azaitar being scratched.
“UFC is aware of a recent violation of the health and safety protocols involving Ottman Azaitar. As such, Azaitar has been removed from the safety zone and his upcoming bout against Matt Frevola has been canceled,” the statement read, under the heading UFC Statement Regarding Safety Zone Violation. “The organization continues to keep the health and safety of all participants as the top priority and will take action against anyone that does not adhere to the strict measures put in place.”
The promotion did not indicate whether further action beyond the cancellation of his fight would be taken against Azaitar. The exact nature of the violation was not disclosed.
Update 11:10AM ET: UFC President Dana White confirmed to MMA Junkie’s Farah Hannoun that Azaitar has been cut from the promotion after violating the safety zone. Azaitar and his team were caught on camera cutting off their wristbands and handing them out to others outside the safety zone, allowing them to sneak in past security.
Dana White tells me that as a result of Ottman Azaitar violating the safety protocols, he has been cut from the UFC. #UFC257
— Farah Hannoun (@Farah_Hannoun) January 22, 2021
White provided additional details to BT Sport.
"It's bad, he's gone, he's no longer a UFC fighter."
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) January 22, 2021
The Fight Island “Safety Zone” was first implemented for July 2020’s inaugural pandemic era events in Abu Dhabi. An 11km stretch of Yas Island including “the venue, the hotels, the training facilities and the dining establishments” was cordoned off, with only UFC athletes and their coaches, UFC staff, event personnel, and Yas Island employees permitted.
With fans back in the arena for the 2021 Fight Island cards including UFC 257, additional restricted zones were created. Within the safety zone, athletes undergo quarantines, social distancing, COVID testing, and other protocols.