Kamaru Usman took a trip to Madison Square Garden to take in some fights, not to be in one.
However, the top UFC welterweight contender and his manager Ali Abdel-Aziz found themselves embroiled in a brief brawl in the crowd last Thursday at a Professional Fighters League show in New York City. Video of the incident quickly made its way to social media, leading to some unwanted attention for Usman.
UFC welterweight contender @USMAN84kg tells his side of the story regarding the brawl he and his manager @AliAbdelaziz00 were involved in at PFL 1. Watch #TheMMAHour live: https://t.co/11sYrEm5Ug pic.twitter.com/v3tjvzyWWQ— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) June 11, 2018
Usman appeared on The MMA Hour on Monday to clear things up about the scuffle that he described as “surreal”.
“A bunch of drunk fans were coming into the auditorium from the back, because the way the event was set up it was like an auditorium style,” Usman said. “You come in with everyone’s back towards you and you’re looking down towards the cage, so we go out to get some water to drink, we’re thirsty, so we’re coming back in, and while we’re coming in all of a sudden the national anthem’s playing.
“We stop and I’m like, ‘Hey, hey, hey, stop, we don’t want to walk through the crowd while the national anthem’s playing so let’s let this thing finish up.’
As Usman and Abdel-Aziz stood at the top of the stairs, someone who appeared to be kneeling began shouting at them and Abdel-Aziz turned to confront them. Usman tried to defuse the situation by asking the person to be respectful while the anthem was playing, but according to him he was met with a vulgar response.
“The guy turns around and looks at me and goes, ‘Shut the F up you N-word. What are you gonna do?”
Usman, who says he hasn’t been in a fight outside of competition or training since middle school, waited for the anthem to end before speaking to the man again and recalls that he was again called the N-word.
“At this point I’m like, okay this dude is clearly drunk and he’s serious and he’s right in my face, so I’m like, ‘Back up, you’re in my space,’” Usman said. “And the guy goes, ‘You ain’t going to do nothing, what do you think? You’re f’ing tough?’ I think he’s going to swing on me because he’s more and more aggressive so I push him off me and I’m like, ‘Bro, back up.’
“Of course, my manager’s not happy with the situation and then a guy grabs him while he’s trying to get near me, towards me, and the guy grabs him, and the guy is still coming towards me so I push him off.”
“I turn around for us to leave and all of a sudden while my back is turned, I get hit in the back,” Usman continued. “Boom. Then it’s like three of them jump on Ali and then three of them jump on me and now it’s like I gotta defend myself. I’m in self defense mode and I’m trying to draw one guy off me and it’s all just a crazy commotion, guys are trying to jump on — and the whole time, I couldn’t believe the situation was happening. There was one point I had a smile on my face because I’m like, ‘That just happened to me.’”
According to Usman, security kicked their adversaries out after everything was sorted and apologized to him and his manager while escorting them back to their seats. They finished watching the show and later went back to their hotel.
All in all, Usman believes the altercation couldn’t have lasted longer than a few minutes, which made it all the more surprising when he saw the story plastered all over the internet. Making things worse was the angle that a one outlet chose to approach the story from.
“Hours and hours later, I see that it’s all over the internet and the thing’s starting to pick up steam and the crazy thing is the headlines that they’re putting on some of these,” Usman said. “I saw one headline that said ‘UFC fighter and manager attack a fan for kneeling for the national anthem’ and I’m like, ‘Who dropped the ball there?’ Do they not realize that I’m black? Do they not realize that I’m African-American? Why would they write a headline like that?
“Obviously, they just want clicks and they just want things like that, but the whole thing is just funny to me how big they made it. It was just stupid, obviously drunk fans wanting to act tough.”
Asked if he or Abdel-Aziz plan to press charges over the incident, Usman couldn’t speak for his manager, but for him the matter is settled.
“I’ve got to talk to him about that, but it’s not a big deal to me,” Usman said. “That’s not what we do. Obviously, I wasn’t there to fight and it just happened. I’m not the guy to call the cops. Some people will. A situation happened and I’m moving forward, I’m over it.”