A UFC star was desperate to change the topic as he was grilled about links to organised crime after name-dropping a wanted mob moss.
A UFC fighter thanked an alleged Irish mob boss targeted by the US government after winning his fight on Sunday (AEST).
Following his UFC Fight Night victory over Ange Loosa, the New York Post reports Mounir Lazzez thanked Daniel Kinahan, upon whom the US government imposed a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction days before the fight.
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“I would love to thank my coaches and my brother Daniel Kinahan,” Lazzez said in a post-fight interview on the ESPN broadcast. “Without him, I would never be the man who I am today and my career at this point. Thanks a lot.”
Asked to clarify the comments in a press conference, Lazzez said he was unaware of the allegations against Kinahan, which include running one of the world’s biggest cartels, drug trafficking, money laundering and an alleged gang war in Dublin and Spain that has resulted in 18 deaths.
Kinahan has been a large figure in combat sports, as he founded MTK Global, a boxing management company.
“I think I’m here to entertain people,” Lazzez said. “I give the credit to whoever deserves credit. I’m not involved on stuff. I don’t know about it and I will investigate how it is.”
He called Kinahan a “friend and adviser” and, when told that Dublin police accused anyone in combat sports who still works with him of being “involved in a criminal network”, Lazzez said: “I don’t follow this kind of news.”
UFC president Dana White declined comment to Yahoo Sports on the situation.
“For me it’s a simple thing, a friend outside the gym,” Lazzez said. “I meet him for advice and he helped me throughout my career.”
The UFC world was quick to react to the bomb dropped by Lazzez. The journalist who asked Lazzez about Kinahan, Al Dawson, called it a “wildly inappropriate shout-out of Daniel Kinahan”.
“It’s disturbing that anyone would name-drop a US-sanctioned narco-terrorist during an event on US soil, on a US broadcast,” Dawson tweeted. “My pushback to the sports-washing attempt is to try and prevent the mess in Euro boxing happening to US MMA.”
Broadcaster RJ Clifford wrote: “So I’ve narrowed down Mounir Lazzez’s motivations for bringing up Daniel Kinahan yesterday to three options: He genuinely didn’t know. He knew but is the most tone deaf man on earth. He’s sport washing for his guy.”
MMA reporter Josh Gross said: “Lazzez picked the wrong day to drop a Kinahan reference at a UFC event.”
This story first appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission