As Larissa Pacheco was putting together a performance that ultimately led to her beating Kayla Harrison, the new PFL lightweight champion heard an unfamiliar voice shouting advice during a crucial moment in the fight.
At one point during the five-round battle, Harrison’s manager Ali Abdelaziz got up from his seat, circled around to the side of the cage where the fight hit the floor and he began yelling instructions.
Video captured the incident from this past Friday, which Pacheco says served as a distraction as she was attempting to finish the fight after locking on a triangle choke midway through the bout.
Coach Ali don’t give a fuck. Told the NYSAC ref to fuck off pic.twitter.com/yy3xWEVQll— Spinnin Backfist (@SpinninBackfist) November 26, 2022
“It was a confusing moment for me,” Pacheco explained on The MMA Hour. “It was when I had her in the triangle and I was not hearing my corner’s voice anymore because someone else was yelling. I didn’t know what exactly was happening.
“I know that [my manager] Alex [Davis] is always there with me and he’s there to keep these problems from happening. It’s a big organization. I don’t think things like that should happen.”
Alex Davis, a veteran manager who was also part of Pacheco’s corner during the fight, offered his take on the situation after he was informed that Abdelaziz was giving instructions despite not serving as one of Harrison’s actual coaches that night.
He eventually notified a member of the New York State Athletic Commission who then confronted Abdelaziz as he was shouting at Harrison in the cage.
“I got up and told him get back to your corner. He told me ‘f*** yourself,’” Davis said. “I went and got the official. The official went up to him and he brushed the official off. So I went and got the commissioner. All this during the fight. I’m in her corner.
“As a manager for 29 years, I always try to be fair, I don’t poach people. I don’t break rules. I don’t do things like that. That was blatant, that was cheating. Our sport can’t permit it. I don’t want problems with anybody. I’ve seen this happen before but it’s not with my fighters so I’m not going to get involved but it’s not going to happen with my fighters. I will face it, I will fight it every time it happens. I would like to applaud the New York commissioner for seeing it and coming and acting on it because I’ve seen it happen a bunch of times and it goes on and they do not do anything about it.”
According to Davis, the biggest problem came from where Abdelaziz was located when he was shouting towards the fighters because he wasn’t even sitting in Harrison’s corner across the cage.
Instead, he circled around to the side of the cage where Harrison and Pacheco were grappling on the ground, which was a neutral corner where no one is supposed to stand.
“In this certain circumstance, people have to understand, there are two corners,” Davis explained. “One the red corner and the blue corner. So what happened there, the manager came to the neutral side and started giving instructions. There’s two problems with that. One, you’re giving her instructions. It’s a third corner.
“Second, she cannot hear her corner because he was yelling in her ear and he was getting right up near the cage. It’s all on video. Everybody sees it. So this kind of stuff has to be stopped. I think all we deserve a fair MMA and I think at least that’s the flag I carry. I want to be fair. If I lose, I lose, if I win, I win but I don’t want to win cheating.”
Davis believes the video tells a compelling story about what unfolded as Abdelaziz can be seen shouting at Harrison before a commission official eventually comes up to talk to him about what was happening.
If Abdelaziz had been serving as one of Harrison’s designated coaches, Davis promises he would have no issue with yelling or shouting instructions but cornermen still aren’t allowed to leave their designated area to obtain a more advantageous spot to offer help to their fighter.
“That video makes it obvious. It’s obvious cheating,” Davis said. “That’s not what we’re about. These people work too hard for what they do for us to take illegal advantages, especially managers. We’re here to assist them. What are we doing getting involved in things like that?
“If he was in the other corner, that’s fine but he was not in the corner. He came over to the neutral space and started yelling.”
When the final bell sounded and Pacheco had secured the unanimous decision victory, Davis added that Abdelaziz did offer an apology to the Brazilian’s head coach but didn’t say anything further to him or his fighter.
“He apologized to [her coach]. He did not apologize to me,” Davis said. “He didn’t say anything to [Larissa]. I’ve seen him do it so many times that I just want it to stop.”