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Mounir Lazzez faces heat after shoutout on ESPN to alleged drug cartel leader Daniel Kinahan

A reporter at UFC Vegas 51’s post-fight press conference had questions as to why an alleged drug cartel leader recently sanctioned by the United States was getting name dropped on a UFC broadcast.

UFC Fight Night: Lazzez v Loosa Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Mounir Lazzez put on an absolute striking clinic against late replacement Ange Loosa at UFC Vegas 51 last night (Sat., April 16, 2022), defeating his opponent 30-27 on all three judges’ scorecards. It was a masterful performance that’s largely been overshadowed by his shoutout of reported Kinahan drug cartel head, Daniel Kinahan.

“I would love to thank my coaches and my brother, Daniel Kinahan,” Lazzez said during the post-fight interview with Daniel Cormier. “Without him, I would never be the man that I am today and to my career to this point. Thanks a lot.”

Just days ago, Kinahan was sanctioned by the United States government for allegedly running the Irish organized crime syndicate, which deals in drug trafficking, money laundering and murder. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) offered a bounty of up to $5 million for information leading to the disruption of the Kinahan gang or arrest of Daniel Kinahan.

Kinahan currently operates MTK Global, a combat sports management agency, out of Saudi Arabia where he’s lived since an assassination attempt from the rival Hutch gang. MTK Global represents Mounir Lazzez, and has connections to many of boxing’s top names including Tyson Fury, Billy Joe Saunders, and Sean Duffy. In the MMA world, MTK MMA represents Darren Till, Alexander Rakic, and Taila Santos amongst others.

Lazzez was asked by reporter Al Dawson about the shout-out during the UFC Vegas 51 post-fight press conference.

“I mean, that man is a friend and advisor,” he said. “He’s the one, he pick me up every time that life kick me down. He’s a real man of his word and he’s the one that teach me what it means, real family, real friend. It’s someone I cannot thank him enough for where I am today and who I am today. He teach me the real manner, he teach me to be like responsible to my family and my friends, my close ones, that’s why I said that shout out and all the credit to him.”

When told about the recent sanctions levied against Kinahan, Lazzez replied, “No, I don’t know that. 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, I don’t know about it and will investigate it and how it goes.”

As the questioning regarding Kinahan continued, Lazzez started to get visibly uncomfortable.

“For me it’s a simple thing. It’s friend outside the gym, you know? And just I meet him for advice and he helped me through my career, so. I don’t really follow this kind of news. I focus on the sport, I focus on my family, I focus on entertaining people and that’s the most important thing, you know?”

At this point his corner started yelling from the side of the dais for the topic to be dropped.

“Any other question, please?” Lazzez asked. “If you can give me questions about my fight, please.”

It feels a bit unfortunate that Lazzez is the one getting heat for his connection to Kinahan and MTK Global when much larger athletes get a pass, but he was the one who decided to name drop an alleged drug cartel boss on ESPN.

He’s not the only one doing that, though.

For some reason, Kinahan hasn’t exactly been operating in the shadows as authorities ramp up investigations against him and his organization(s). Whenever there’s a new expose on the Kinahan gang or Daniel Kinahan, various combat sports stars and personalities come out of the woodwork to thank Kinahan for his help and call him friend. As our sister site Bloody Elbow would say: That’s sportswashing! At its most obvious, really.

Instagram - Tyson Fury

Media members may be aghast that Kinahan is beginning to pop up more and more in mixed martial arts (MMA), but based on social media comments, fans don’t seem to think it’s that big of a deal. And maybe it’s not. Maybe we shouldn’t worry too much about some shady rich person funneling money to desperately underpaid fighters on their way up.

But, it’s worth mentioning that the chickens have come back to roost already in boxing: in 2016 a group of men dressed as police officers burst into a boxing weigh-in and opened fire with AK-47s. One person was shot dead and two others injured. The target was Daniel Kinahan.

For complete UFC Vegas 51 results and coverage click here.

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