clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Coach reveals Sean Strickland was almost pulled from UFC 293 for punching Australian fan - ‘It was close’

Sean Strickland almost got canceled the day he landed “Down Under” after allegedly punching an Israel Adesanya fan. The Aussie government was ready to toss him out following reports of the incident, but cooler heads prevailed.

Sean Strickland was *this* close to getting yanked from UFC 293 after allegedly punching a fan in Sydney, Australia, this past weekend (Sat., Sept, 9, 2023).

Dana White and Co. to the rescue!

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) reportedly wasn’t hot on Strickland getting his 185-pound title shot against Israel Adesanya “Down Under” to begin with, and had Jared Cannonier on call just in case “Tarzan” did anything to embarrass the company as it kicked off a $16 million deal with the New South Wales government to hold events in Sydney.

The mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion often has back-ups on call for big fights just in case something goes wrong — usually weigh-in issues. In Strickland’s case, Cannonier was a “break glass in case of international incident” choice, and Sean being Sean, they had the hammer in their hand.

During a new interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Strickland’s brilliant coach, Eric Nicksick, revealed just how close they were to being replaced.

“I thought we were gonna get pulled, I really did,” Nicksick said. “So, they went to the beach, and Sean basically incriminates himself during the fight week. He’s like, ‘Yeah this guy comes up and I punched him in the belly.’ And apparently the Australian government or whoever heard this. And it went downhill from there.

“It got to a point where they were flying John Crouch out from MMA Lab, from Arizona, to come out and corner Jared Cannonier,” Nicksick continued. “When I heard that I was like, ‘Oh bro we are off, they gonna pull us from this card!’ These guys probably didn’t wanted Sean Strickland in this spot to begin with. It was probably pretty close to getting pulled, I don’t know what changed or what happened behind the scenes.”

Strickland did claim he had to punch a disrespectful Izzy fan in the stomach shortly after landing in Oz, but both he and UFC President (now CEO), Dana White, later smoothed things over by claiming it was more of a joke incident than a proper assault, which is how Australian media were reporting it.

Darn scumbag news outlets!

Fortunately for Strickland, the fan in question didn’t press charges, so the Aussie government didn’t have a solid case to deport him outright. White promised that UFC had people around “Tarzan” to ensure no more negative headlines, and ... well ... yeah.

Strickland went on to spar an Aussie fan at UFC 293’s open workouts, but it was all in good fun: no brutal gym beatdowns like the new Middleweight champion is known for. He then criticized the Australian government for arresting a pregnant woman over her anti-COVID lockdown protests. Then he rounded out the week by calling Adesanya a whole bunch of things we can’t even repeat lest Google get the wrong idea about this site.

Adesanya fired back by bringing up Strickland’s neo-nazi past. Really great optics. At least Strickland heartily disavowed that period in his life?

It’s a good thing for him that UFC is so unwilling to “cancel” fighters. Not even two homophobic slurs dropped during UFC 293’s broadcast could push Dana White to take action. And so Strickland remained on the pay-per-view (PPV) card, he had the performance of a lifetime, and he took the belt off Adesanya in dominant fashion (watch it).

And to think a little thing like assaulting a fan almost derailed it all.

For complete UFC 293 results, coverage and highlights click HERE.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania