The lightweights generated plenty of buzz ahead of this Saturday’s UFC London card after Topuria posted a video on social media that showed he and Pimblett involved in a physical altercation at a hotel. In the footage, Topuria and several associates approach Pimblett, leading to Topuria throwing punches and Pimblett countering by hurling a bottle of hand sanitizer at Topuria.
At UFC London media day on Thursday, Pimblett gave his account of the altercation, though he did so without saying Topuria’s name.
“Who’s that?” Pimblett said. “Oh, ‘hand sanitizer boy?’ Is that who you mean? Yeah, that’s his name for that one lad, don’t refer to him as his name, his name’s ‘Hand Sanitizer’ because it got bounced off his head.
“But I don’t concern myself with none of that. He wanted to come at me and try and act hard and he got put in his place. I was stood there on my own and there was about six of them and he done nothing. If he wanted to do so then he would have come around the table and tried to have a fight with me, but he didn’t, he stood on the other side of the table because he knows what’s good for him.”
It’s unclear exactly where the feud between Pimblett and Topuria originated, though Georgian fighters Liana Jojua and Guram Kutateladze took umbrage with offensive comments that Pimblett made about the country on social media last April, which Pimblett later apologized for. Topuria is of Georgian descent.
Regardless of whether Pimblett expected there to be tension between he and Topuria this week, when he he saw Topuria at the hotel he sensed a confrontation was brewing.
“As soon as he came out of them double doors, he just snarled at me,” Pimblett said. “So I looked at him and said, ‘What?’ And then he walked towards me and I said, ‘What’s happening, lad?’ Then as he got close to me, he swiped a slap at me and obviously, if you raise your hands at me, [I’m not gonna hurt my hand] and not be able to fight and earn my money on the weekend.
“So I stepped back and picked up the hand sanitizer and bounced if off his head. … He’s just got a bit of small-man syndrome. He’s only 5-foot-7 isn’t he, so try to leave the little men to it.”
Though both fighters are competing at UFC London, they have different opponents. Pimblett makes his second UFC appearance in a fight against Kazula Vargas, while Topuria is moving up from the 145-pound division to fight Jai Herbert.
For that reason, it made even less sense to Pimblett to actually trade punches with Topuria.
“I can’t let something like that happen,” Pimblett said. “I can’t start throwing punches and get cut off the card or break my hand hitting someone. Especially someone so meaningless.
“Who even is he? Seriously, who is ‘Mr. Hand Sanitizer?’ He’s a no one. He used my name for followers and to gain some publicity and he put a video up and made himself look like a right tool.”
Should Pimblett and Topuria both be victorious, it seems like it would make sense to match them up in the future, but Pimblett isn’t considering that possibility especially since he doesn’t expect Topuria to have much success in his new division.
“He’s not gonna win though,” Pimblett said. “I know full well, I know Jai. I know Jai is gonna knock him out and send him crawling back down to the featherweight division.”