Last night at UFC Vegas 51 UAE-based fighter Mounir Lazzez beat Ange Lossa. In his post-fight interview with Daniel Cormier, Lazzez thanked Daniel Kinahan, calling him his “brother”.
Here’s exactly what Lazzez said.
“I would love to thank my coaches and my brother Daniel Kinahan, without him I would never be the man who I am today and my career to this point. Thanks so much.”
I would love to thank my coaches and my brother Daniel Kinahan, without him I would never be the man who I am today…#UFCVegas51pic.twitter.com/WwfqFuujv5
— Jed I. Goodman © (@jedigoodman) April 17, 2022
This week the US Department of Treasury sanctioned Kinahan, an Irish national believed to reside in Dubai, and named him as the leader of the Kinahan Organized Crime Group. The US Drug Enforcement Agency also offered a $5 million reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of Kinahan or leads to the disruption of the KOCG’s activities.
Those activities are believed to include a cocaine smuggling empire that is worth around $1 billion. The KOCG is also believed to be responsible for killings across Spain and Ireland as part of the ongoing Hutch-Kinahan gangland feud.
In his post-fight press conference, Lazzez was pressed by reporter Alan Dawson, of Insider, about his association with Kinahan.
Mounir Lazzez was asked about his #UFCVegas51 post-win shoutout of suspected Irish mob boss Daniel Kinahan, who was sanctioned by the U.S. government and had a $5 million bounty placed on his head this week.
Here’s what he had to say: pic.twitter.com/Vsf0JTcrhX
— MMA Junkie (@MMAJunkie) April 17, 2022
“That man is a friend and advisor,” said Lazzez. “He’s the one in the world who picks me up every time the life kicks me down. He’s a real man of his word. And he’s the one who teach me what it means to be a real family and it’s someone I cannot thank enough for where I am today and who I am today. He teach me the real manner. He teach me how to be a real responsible with my family and my friends and close ones. That’s why I said that, with the shout out and credit to him.”
After Dawson asked if Lazzez knew about the sanctions against Kinahan and the US’s accusation that his ‘advisor’ imports cocaine from South America. Lazzez answered: “No, I don’t know that.”
When pressed further and told about the DEA reward for Kinahan, Lazzez said: “I think I’m here to entertain people and I say I give the credit to whoever deserves credit. I’m not involved this kind of stuff and I don’t know about it. They will investigate it, how it is and how it goes.”
Lazzez was then asked if he felt that his shout out of Kinahan was helping legitimize the alleged mob boss.
“No, it’s not,” he answered. “For me it’s a simple thing. It’s friend outside the gym and just like meeting for advice and he helped me through my career.”
“I don’t follow really this kind of news,” continued Lazzez. “I focus in the sport. I focus in my family. I focus in entertaining people. That’s most important.”
A voice from the back of the room then announced that Lazzez does not want to talk about Kinahan. Lazzez then clammed up and refused to take another question from Dawson that was not about his fight with Lossa.
Lazzez’s name drop of Kinahan comes days after his management company—MTK Global—released a statement desperately trying to separate themselves from Kinahan. MTK has repeatedly denied that Kinahan is involved with the company, despite MTK clients constantly referring to him as their ‘advisor’. The most notable fighters to publicly praise Kinahan include Tyson Fury, Darren Till and Billy Joe Saunders.
Lazzez’s announcement, live on ESPN, also comes after ESPN dropped an MTK boxing show that was to air on Friday.
MTK started life as Macklin’s Gym Marbella (MGM), a company founded by Kinahan and former pro boxer Matthew Macklin. The company renamed to become MTK after a weigh-in for one of their event’s was attacked by gunman inside Dublin’s Regency Hotel in 2016.
That shooting lead to the death of David Byrne, a suspected top lieutenant in the KOCG. It is believed that Kinahan was the intended target of that shooting. It is also believed that the shooting was a revenge attack committed by members of the Hutch Gang.
Prior to the shooting, a number of Hutch Gang members were killed by suspected Kinahan members. There was also an unsuccessful assassination attempt against alleged Hutch Gang leader Gerry Hutch at a bar in Lanzarote, Spain. Gerry Hutch is currently in jail awaiting trial for allegedly orchestrating the Regency Hotel attack.
Shortly after that shooting, Kinahan relocated to Dubai and MTK began claiming that he was no longer involved with the company.
Despite MTK’s claims that they did not work with Kinahan, in 2020 it was revealed that Kinahan was personally negotiating fight contracts on behalf of MTK’s biggest client—Tyson Fury. Evidence for this was shared by Fury, when he publicly thanked Kinahan for completing deals for him to fight Anthony Joshua.
This revelation lead to a tremendous amount of backlash, including Ireland’s government calling for a boycott of Fury fights. This lead to a statement from Fury and his US promoter Bob Arum stating they would no longer work with Kinahan. Kinahan was also dropped from his advisory role at KHK Sports, a company owned by Bahrain’s crown prince.
Despite those claims from Fury, this year he appeared at a gym in Dubai alongside Kinahan.
The new sanctions against Kinahan prohibit any US individuals or companies from doing business with him, as well as other named individuals believed to be apart of the KOCG (including Kinahan’s father Christy Kinahan; the alleged founder of the organization). The sanctions also named a handful of businesses that US companies were forbidden from working with.
MTK was not named in the sanctions. However, that hasn’t prevented Arum and his Top Rank company recently claiming they would no longer work with MTK or Probellum (a promotion that is closely tied to MTK).
ESPN dropping an MTK show suggests that the Disney owned company might also be wary of having any connection to Kinahan. We will need to wait and see if ESPN and the UFC will address this issue and whether they will continue to include MTK fighters on their shows.
MTK’s MMA Division includes the following UFC fighters:
- Darren Till
- Aleksandar Rakic
- Mounir Lazzez
- Mike Grundy
- Taila Santos
- Josiane Nunes de Lima
- Dusko Todorovic
- Stephanie Egger
- Carlston Harris
Bloody Elbow has repeatedly requested a comment from the UFC regarding their stance on MTK and Kinahan. Bloody Elbow has also asked for a statement regarding Lazzez’s public praise of Kinahan during a UFC event. As of this time of writing, no response has been returned.