Update: On February 20, 2021, UFC president Dana White said that the promotion had decided to give Azaitar a second chance after the incident on Fight Island before UFC 257, and he will remain on the roster.
Casual UFC fans may not be familiar with the name Ottman Azaitar, and there’s a good chance they never will after an incident ahead of UFC 257 cost him his job.
Azaitar was scheduled to take on fellow lightweight Matt Frevola on the main card of the UFC’s first pay-per-view of 2021, headlined by a rematch between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier in Azaitar’s own division.
Azaitar and Frevola obviously weren’t the main story heading into the week of the fight, between the magnitude of McGregor’s return to the Octagon, the history between the two fighters in the main event, and even the attention that the co-main between Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler received.
But, the Azaitar-Frevola bout became a major talking point just one day before the UFC would go live from Fight Island for UFC 257, unfortunately for all of the wrong reasons.
Azaitar was removed from the bout for what was initially cited as a violation of health and safety protocols, and Frevola initially was simply going to weigh in at lightweight to serve as a backup for the event.
“UFC is aware of a recent violation of the health and safety protocols involving Ottman Azaitar,” the UFC wrote in a statement. “As such, Azaitar has been removed from the safety zone and his upcoming bout against Matt Frevola has been canceled.”
“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.”
Then, it was announced that Frevola would fight Arman Tsarukyan, who also lost his initial opponent for the event, on short notice, despite Tsarukyan missing the lightweight limit of 155 pounds.
After weigh-ins, however, the story hit an interesting turning point as Dana White talked to BT Sport.
When asked about Azaitar’s absence from the card, White explained that the undefeated 30-year-old had been cut from the UFC roster after an incident on Fight Island.
“It’s pretty amazing, actually,” White said. “He and his team cut off their wrist bands, 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.
“Now when security tried to stop him, he wouldn’t stop, either way,” White continued. “Yeah, it’s just bad. He’s gone, he’s no longer a UFC fighter and he’s not fighting tonight.”
While the timing of the incident wouldn’t be ideal for any of the UFC’s cards on Fight Island, the stakes were almost certainly raised the second that McGregor, arguably the company’s biggest superstar, was booked for UFC 257’s main event.
The incident is undoubtedly cause for punishment on its own, let alone when the situation had the potential of derailing one of the biggest UFC cards in recent memory if one of the four lightweights at the top of the card had been impacted.
So, as a result of Azaitar’s and his team’s seemingly-extreme violations, a young up-and-comer who looked like he had potential is out of a job. A 13-0 fighter with two wins in the UFC who will now be known as the man who saw his future disappear before his eyes because of an external visitor and a bag.