Suspected spud smuggler Ottman Azaitar was sensationally fired from the UFC in January after breaking health and safety protocols ahead of UFC 257. UFC President Dana White claimed he canned Azaitar after security footage captured him sneaking someone into the fighter hotel in a manner that skirted COVID-19 precautions.
The mystery visitor was captured on tape dropping off a bag for Azaitar. The contents of the bag were not initially disclosed. Azaitar’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, later claimed the bag was full of potatoes.
A few weeks later White and the UFC forgave Azaitar’s indiscretions and stated that the fighter would receive “a second chance”.
Azaitar has now broken his silence on the matter. He spoke to Bloody Elbow alum Mark Bergmann at Fighting.de. If you hoping for a clear explanation of what went on at the fighter hotel, you’re out of luck. If you’re hoping for a rambling screed that will leave you more confused than were before you started this article... well, fill your boots.
“I just want to say: When I – Ottman Azaitar – will decide to let the public know about this, then only when I want to and when I see fit. Not because someone even thinks he can pressure me mentally and psychologically to address this and perhaps lie about this or whatever. No, no my friend. I am not asking your mother what’s in her purse, do I? I’m not even asking her if she has a bag in the first place! People shouldn’t always react prematurely after they read something. Of course, Dana White came down there and gave that statement. But Dana White even said it himself that he didn’t know if… you know what I mean? I’m not holding that against him. He has his security guys, and they come up to him and tell him this and that, balcony, blah blah blah. Of course, he thinks that there’s gotta be something to that story and says that in his statement. He even asked in that interview, if he should really do this, if they should really tell this story.
“Long story short: I don’t want to say that something is not true, and I don’t want to say that something is true. Should you release these words to the public, I want you to keep all of this in it, so nothing can be taken out of context. You know what I mean? This is important to me. I am basically saying nothing right now, this is basically a no comment on that whole situation and the bag itself. I am just talking about my life in general: It’s possible that someone is making a claim about you, it’s also possible that you are really guilty, it’s possible that… [Azaitar mumbles]. I’m giving you a little riddle, because I promised a Moroccan reporter before you to talk to him first, as soon as I want to address this a bit more openly. I promise you: for the German-speaking region, I will talk to you about the what, the who, the why and so forth. But what I really want to let everybody know is: I won’t do this because someone thinks he can pressure me or bug me, until I say something. And all the people going: “We were supporting you for years, you owe us something” – I owe you nothing, I never borrowed anything from you! I don’t ask what’s in your sister’s purse or your mother’s purse or whatever. Of course, people want to know what I think about this, but I am the master of my own thoughts! And I decide when and if I express them to the public or not. Everything I’m saying here is more riddle than… oh wait, this is my alarm clock. I have to go training.’
Even before Potatogate, Azaitar was a controversial addition to the UFC roster. Azaitar and his brother Abu are popular playthings of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. The brothers have been taken on vacation by the royal and were even granted a palace to convert into a sports club. In exchange the brothers sing their powerful patron’s praises at any chance they get (adding noise that can drown out concerns over Morocco’s human rights abuses).
Abu Azaitar is also on the UFC roster, though he is currently serving a long USADA suspension. This Azaitar, along with a third brother Omar, have a long criminal history in their adopted home of Germany.