Prominent MMA manager Ali Abdelaziz is accused of battery in two separate cases in Las Vegas, one of which is scheduled to go before a judge next month.
Abdelaziz, who founded Dominance MMA Management, was cited for battery this past Friday after allegedly striking another MMA manager, Abe Kawa of First Round Management, at a PFL playoff event.
On Monday, a bench trial for another battery charge – this one stemming from a run-in with Colby Covington – was re-scheduled for Nov. 25 in Las Vegas Township Justice Court.
The most recent incident, first reported by MMA Junkie, allegedly occurred cageside at the at Mandalay Bay Events Center. Two on-duty Las Vegas police officers posted in the VIP section witnessed a man –later identified as Abdelaziz – strike another man “in his face with a closed fist,” per a police report obtained by MMAFighting.
Kawa identified himself to police as the victim and claimed Abdelaziz had approached, saying he needed to speak with him, “and subsequently struck him in the face with a closed fist on the right side of his face for no reason.” Leisette France, the fiancee of former UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, corroborated the account, the report stated.
Photos were taken of Kawa’s injuries, and Abdelaziz was cited with battery and escorted off the premise, the report stated. An LVPD spokesperson told ESPN.com there were “no significant injuries” to either party.
Abdelaziz did not respond to a request for comment.
In a prepared statement, PFL spokesperson Greg Savage told MMAFighting the promotion is “aware of an incident” at the event and is “continuing to gather information.” The PFL playoff event was regulated by the Nevada Athletic Commission. A spokesperson for the commission acknowledged a request for comment and said he will look into the matter.
The most recent incident is the third time Abdelaziz allegedly has been involved in a physical altercation at an event promoted by the PFL or its predecessor, WSOF. In 2015, he was seen cageside in a video where his longtime client, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, clashed with UFC star Nick Diaz at a WSOF event. Three years later, he and UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman were escorted out of a PFL event after an argument with a fan got physical.
Usman is at the center of the older battery charge, a misdemeanor, which was filed on June 21. Three months earlier, in March, Usman and Abdelaziz were caught on tape going after Covington at a buffet line at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
Video released by TMZ appears to show Abdelaziz and Usman threatening the former interim UFC champ before Abdelaziz gets physical. The manager throws several punches at Covington and tries to push his way around onlookers, who step in to separate them as others call for security.
Per a police report filed on March 20, three weeks after the footage leaked, an alleged victim of the casino incident named Michael John Johnson told police he was “a member of team Colby Covington in the UFC” and was standing in line at the buffet when Usman and “other members of his team approached and began to assault him and the rest of Covington’s team.” The alleged assailants were then “kicked out of the casino,” he told police.
The report stated that Johnson identified Abdelaziz when he showed the police the TMZ video. Asked why he didn’t immediately report the incident, Johnson said he “didn’t want anyone to get into trouble,” but was advised to report it and was “just looking for incident documentation.”
Reached for comment, Covington claimed he didn’t know Johnson, calling him, “just an innocent civilian caught in the line of fire.”
Dean Gronemeir, Abdelaziz’s attorney of record in the second battery case, confirmed the bench trial had been moved from Monday to Nov. 25. He declined additional comment.
A former executive and matchmaker for the World Series of Fighting, which in 2017 rebranded as the PFL under a new group of investors, Abdelaziz transitioned to management full-time in 2015, shortly after conflict of interest concerns were raised by the Nevada commission. His roster of clients rapidly expanded over the next four years. His management firm, Dominance MMA, now represents some of the biggest names in the UFC and PFL, including UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Kawa is a longtime MMA manager who operates First Round Management with his brother, MMA and NFL manager Malki Kawa. Among his most notable clients are UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones, Tyron Woodley and Demetrious Johnson.
Malki Kawa has his own history with Abdelaziz. He was reportedly punched by the manager backstage at UFC 150 in 2012. No charges were filed after the alleged incident, and the two later reconciled.
Following the alleged incident this past Friday, Malki Kawa vented at Abdelaziz on Twitter.
“One day (really soon) I’ll tell you guys the truth about my ‘altercations’ with that rat,” he wrote. “But so we’re clear, he never ko’d me, never dazed me, never did anything but throw a sucker punch and then I got grabbed. I never said anything because BOTH TIMES he called to apologize. Both time’s (sic). Like a little bitch. But now I see he did that to avoid me pressing charges. Which I was never going to do.
“But like I said, I’ll give all the details later. So we’re clear, any friend of his is an enemy of mine. We can fight all day, but coming at anyone in my family and you cross the line.”