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UFC reverses course, won’t release Ottman Azaitar after he breached COVID-19 protocols on Fight Island

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC President Dana White has decided to give Ottman Azaitar a second chance after the lightweight broke COVID-19 protocols on Fight Island.

White told ESPN.com Azaitar will get a “second chance” after telling multiple media outlets the fighter would be released from contract after he and his team allegedly helped an unknown individual breach the promotion’s “bubble.” The individual allegedly dropped off a bag with unknown contents and attempted to evade security.

The UFC confirmed to MMA Fighting Azaitar will remain under contract. In a short statement, his manager Ali Abdelaziz said he’s “grateful to the UFC” for the decision and declined further comment. Abdelaziz told ESPN.com the incident was a “misunderstanding” and added Azaitar was never released from contract or removed from the promotion’s drug testing pool.

Azaitar has not publicly commented on the incident. Late this past month, he tweeted to his followers “patience reveals understanding.”

UFC fighters are required to stay inside a “safe zone” once they arrive on Fight Island, with their movement restricted to the event’s host hotel in Abu Dhabi and the arena set up by the promotion for events held on Yas Island. According to White, Azaitar and his team cut off access wristbands on the night of the incident and gave them to the unknown individual, who, per White, “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.”

At the time of the incident, Azaitar was scheduled to face Matt Frevola at UFC 257. But White said afterward, “he’s gone. He’s no longer a UFC fighter and he’s not fighting tonight.”

Azaitar made his UFC debut in September 2019 and quickly made an impact, knocking out his Teemu Packalen in the first round. In his follow-up, he stopped Khama Worthy in another first-round stoppage.