Mounir Lazzez’s win was overshadowed by an eyebrow-raising post-fight tribute.
The UFC welterweight won a unanimous decision over Ange Loosa in the main card opener of UFC Vegas 51 on Saturday, then proceeded to mention Daniel Kinahan in his post-fight interview. Kinahan is an alleged crime boss who was recently sanctioned by the U.S. government, with officials offering a $5 million reward for information that can assist in the disruption of the Kinahan Organised Crime Group.
Lazzez was asked about his connection to Kinahan when speaking to the media backstage following his win.
“That man is a friend and advisor,” Lazzez said. “He’s the one who picked me up every time life would kick me down. He’s a real man of his word and, you know, he’s the one who teached me what does it mean, real family, real friend. It’s someone I cannot thank him enough for where I am today and who I am today.
“He teached me the real manner, he teached me how to be responsible in my family and my friends and my close ones. That’s why I said that. All the shoutout and credit to him.”
In a follow-up question, Lazzez was asked if he was aware that Kinahan has been sanctioned and he denied any knowledge of the situation.
“No, I don’t know that,” Lazzez said, later adding, “I think I’m here to entertain people and I say I give the credit to whoever deserves credit. I’m not involved in this kind of stuff and I don’t know about it and I will investigate how it is and how to go.”
Lazzez did not elaborate on any professional connection to Kinahan, though he has previously fought for the Probellum promotion. Probellum is a company that is involved in managing MMA fighters and boxers and it has a working relationship with MTK Global, a promotion co-founded by Kinahan. (MTK claims to have stopped working with Kinahan in 2017.) On Saturday, Probellum released a statement denying that Kinahan had any executive role in their organization and vowed to avoid any future association with him.
Regarding the possibility of a shoutout on ESPN legitimizing Kinahan, Lazzez again only referred to Kinahan as “a friend.”
“For me, it’s a simple thing,” Lazzez said. “It’s a friend outside the gym and just I meet him for advice and things and he helped me through my career.
“I don’t follow really this kind of news,” he continued. “I focus on the sport, I focus on my family, I focus on entertaining people and that’s most important.”
Lazzez then proceeded to answer a pair of subsequent questions about Kinahan by asking if there were any questions specifically pertaining to his UFC Vegas 51 fight instead.