UFC President Dana White announced Friday that lightweight fighter Ottman Azaitar has been released by UFC after a health and safety breach on UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
White told BT Sport why the decision was made to cut ties with Azaitar:
Azaitar was scheduled to face Matt Frevola at UFC 257 on Saturday, but he was replaced by Arman Tsarukyan, who will now fight Frevola at catchweight on the preliminary card.
White explained that Azaitar and his team cut off their wrist bands and gave them to someone outside the bubble. That person made their way across four balconies at the hotel and left a bag in Azaitar's room.
White didn't divulge what was in the bag, but it was a clear violation since the wrist bands are meant to signify that someone is COVID-19 free and allowed to be inside the Fight Island bubble.
By allowing an unapproved person to enter the bubble, Azaitar and his team could have put fighters at increased risk.
Azaitar's actions cost him an opportunity to continue rising through the UFC ranks, which is something he had done since joining the promotion in 2019.
The 30-year-old native of Germany is 13-0 as a professional fighter with two wins by way of knockout. He went 2-0 in UFC, beating Teemu Packalen by knockout at UFC 242 in September 2019 and Khama Worthy by technical knockout at UFC Fight Night in September 2020.
With Azaitar gone, that opportunity will now go to Frevola and Tsarukyan. Frevola, 30, owns an 8-1-1 career record, while the 24-year-old Tsarukyan is 15-2.
UFC 257 could prove to be one of the biggest UFC pay-per-views of the year, as it will mark the return of Conor McGregor, who is facing Dustin Poirier in the main event.