Undefeated lightweight Ottman Azaitar returns at UFC 281, where he’s set to take on Matt Frevola. For Azaitar (13-0), it’s his first fight in over two years — but he still can’t escape questions about what happened during a 2021 quarantine breach in Abu Dhabi.
For those who recall, a member of Azaitar’s entourage broke quarantine in Abu Dhabi, breaching the “bubble” put in place to keep fighters safe during COVID-19. A bag was allegedly handed off to Azaitar, in an incident that Dana White revealed had been caught on camera.
The UFC President cut the fighter pretty much on the spot, only to later reinstate him. As for the mysterious bag in question, its contents have remained a mystery. Azaitar’s manager later claimed it was full of potatoes, but few have chosen to believe that line.
No one loves potatoes that much.
Still, Azaitar said during this week’s UFC 281 media day that he isn’t tired of questions regarding the incident. “No not really, I’m not tired. No problem. They can ask.”
That doesn’t mean he’ll answer, mind you. At least not directly. Instead, when asked what was in the bag, Azaitar chose to skip that question. Instead, he outlined a hypothetical. “I’m not confirming anything by what I say now. But let’s say I have a bag now with me. Let’s say I come into this room with a bag. Why would you ask me ‘what’s in the bag?’ What’s in your bag?”
Pointed out that the bag incident featured someone breaking quarantine protocols and putting the health and safety of athletes at risk, Azaitar asked whether the reporter in question — Oscar Willis of The Mac Life — had been in the bubble. Turns out, he had, though his bags were sprayed with disinfectant, not searched.
“My bags were also not checked before,” Azaitar continued. “I also, when I checked in in this hotel or whenever I checked in in any fighter hotel, no one ever checked my bags. So why this big secret around this bag? You understand?”
Azaitar went on the downplay the Cloak and Dagger style incident.
“It’s not a Mission Impossible movie, no.” While UFC fighters, who lived and breathed the safety protocols throughout the pandemic, may understand, Azaitar believes that after all the media attention, people outside the MMA bubble got “a little wrong impression about how we get treated when we check in in the hotel. They have the idea that we are like in the airport, we have to open all our bags and they get checked, but that’s not what’s happening. The fighters are always welcomed very good, warmly, we can go in without people checking our bags. They put this trust in us.”
That, said Azaitar, is why he chose to answer the bag question the way he did. “If I wanted to sneak anything in, I could have done it without any Mission Impossible, or sending Spider-Man to give Batman something, and Ant-Man makes small, big and SuperMan from up and however,” he laughed. “I belong to these guys. Ottman, Batman, Ant-Man. All these guys. All my friends.”
That got a chuckle from the press gallery. Though we still don’t know what was in the bag. Regardless, Ottman Azaitar finally throws down with Frevola, his would-be opponent in that 2021 incident, at UFC 281 this Saturday at Madison Square Garden.