UFC 209 had been trumpeted as one of, if not the biggest event in the promotions 2017 calendar. The headline act featuring a rematch between reigning welterweight kingpin Tyron Woodley and karate kid Stephen Thompson was not the icing on the cake, far from it (scores needed to be settled, and they were – tentatively) – it was just par for the course.
However, the co-main event – an interim lightweight title clash between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson – the division’ top two contenders – No.1 and No.2. respectively was the mouthwatering entrée the fans had been waiting to see.
No doubt, the winner of that bout was destined to meet 155 champ Conor McGregor in a unification match somewhere down the line. Be that as it may, it was not to be, as the MMA gods threw a humongous spanner in the works, thus nixing the most anticipated lightweight bash since the company’s formation twenty odd years ago.
As things turned out, Nurmagomedov withdrew from the contest due to weight-cutting issues, and was subsequently shipped off to hospital, and as I say, the rest is history.
Still, only Nurmagomedov and the one’s closest to him truly know what transpired a day before the biggest match-up of his career (he recently spoke on that). One of those people is Ali Abdel-Aziz; manager and longtime friend of the Russian grappler.
Here (Per The MMA Hour h/t MMAFighting) Abdel-Aziz gives his take on what really happened that fateful Friday; his not following proper protocol, his oblivity to said protocol, his acknowledgment that Dana White was correct in his assessment of the entire debacle, what next for “The Eagle,” and much, much more:
“Normally we’re supposed to get back at 6 o’clock in the morning and cut weight, but at 3:45 in the morning I went to the room — and my room was right next to his room, and he was in so much pain,” Abdel-Aziz said. “And after that I panicked. Because this is not just somebody I manage, this is my little brother. I have a different relationship with all the guys I manage, because if I can’t be your friend or we can’t be like brothers, we can’t work together.”
“I panicked, and the first thing I wanted to do, I wanted to help him,” he said. “I wanted to bring some care to him. I thought about calling 911, but I thought, listen, we can pick him up. When we picked him up, the whole group, he couldn’t even walk. We put him in my car and drove straight to the hospital. On the way to the hospital I tried to get a hold of the UFC. It was 4 o’clock in the morning by the time I got to the car.
“Normally, for the last eight or nine years that I’ve worked with the UFC, if anything happens you call two people — the matchmaker, and Dana White — and I did both. But of course at 4 o’clock in the morning, I didn’t know who to call.”
“I know Dana came out and said I should have called the UFC doctor, or called (UFC medical claims official) Briana [Mattison], but I never did this before,” he said. “And you know what? Dana is right. I wish I called Dr. Davidson, because we went to the Sunrise Hospital, and were there for almost seven hours. And they treated us so poorly. And now, I got a little offended when Dana was talking, but he’s right. If we called the UFC doctor — that I never had before, I didn’t know I was supposed to call him — we would have gotten probably treated like kings.”
“Listen, I don’t know if the fight can be saved or maybe can be saved if we went to a different hospital, but the first thing they wanted to do with Khabib, they want to stick him with some IVs,” he said. “Me and the doctor who’s fighting with Khabib to put an IV in him, he fought him for almost an hour-and-a-half, and finally the pain was so great, he just got an IV with some medication in it, and we all submitted. Now he probably went back to 165 or so, there’s no way this fight can happen.”
“It was one of the worst weeks of my career as a manager,” he said. “To see a friend go through this pain and suffering.”
“Two days before the fight he had a little flu, but he took his vitamin C, and he was feeling alright,” he said. “It was something very minor, and he didn’t even need to go to a doctor. Vitamin C, rest and sleeping. When you cut weight your immune system goes down. The weight cut, I’m telling you, it was the same as every time, and every time he makes weight. The last time he fought Michael Johnson, he makes weight. But I think this time, something different. The pain was coming from his liver, but I think the dehydration for sure, and I think it was part of the process.”
“When you go to a hospital, they don’t understand weight-cutting, UFC, they look at you and they think you’re dehydrated, and they stick you with needles,” he said. “And they’re going to say in the report you were dehydrated. But, I think sometimes your body is going to tell you no.
“I’m sure we’ll find a better way to start maybe the process earlier, maybe two months out, not six weeks out for cutting weight. Or just not being as heavy, but he always walk around at a certain weight and always makes weight. I don’t think it was the weight issue, it was that his body didn’t react right to the weight cut.”
“At the end of the day, Buffalo is not realistic,” he said. “I haven’t talked to Khabib yet about any fighting. May might be an option, but you know, Khabib is not going to fight at Ramadan, and Ramadan is going to start May 26 (and lasts until June 25).
“So maybe May, maybe, but I don’t know if Khabib will be ready, because at the end of the day his health and well-being are worth a lot to me than making money. Money comes in last.”
So, there you have it, straight from the horses mouth – historical revisionism or straight shooting historical facts?
I’ll go with the latter.