Several boxers, MMA fighters, promotional companies and other personalities in the combat sports industry are suddenly doing all they can to distance themselves from Daniel Kinahan after the US government announced heavy sanctions against the head of the Irish mafia.
Mounir Lazzez opted for a different route.
Following a decisive win over Ange Loosa to open Saturday’s UFC Fight Night main card, the welterweight used the end of his post-fight interview – grabbing commentator Daniel Cormier’s microphone in the process – to thank Kinahan.
Lazzez’s full comments:
“I would like to thank my coaches and my brother Daniel Kinahan, without him I would never be the man I am today and my career at this point. Thank you very much.”
It’s certainly an interesting thing to say out loud on a nationally televised event on ESPN, given that the US government has imposed a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest and to the sentencing of this “brother” earlier this week.
Mounir Lazzez claims he was unaware of the allegations against Daniel Kinahan
In a post-fight press conference, Lazzez claimed he was unaware of the allegations and penalties against Kinahan when pressed by a reporter.
The exchange, published by MMA Junkie, is a wild ride:
Q: “I think the most important question is in your post-fight victory speech, you said if it wasn’t for Daniel Kinahan you wouldn’t be here. Can you explain what you did you mean by that?”
A: “This man is a friend and an adviser. He was the one who came for me whenever life had knocked me down. He is a real man of his word. He was the one who taught me what what it means to be a real family, a He’s someone I can’t thank enough for where I am today and who I am today… That’s why I said that, all the thanks and credit to him.”
Q: “Do you know that Daniel Kinahan was sanctioned this week by the US government for sourcing large quantities of cocaine from South America?”
A: “No, I don’t know that.”
Q: “He was sanctioned by the US government on Monday. On Tuesday there is a $5 million bounty on his head for information that could lead to his arrest.”
A: “I think I’m here to entertain people. I give credit to whoever deserves it. I’m not involved in that stuff. I don’t know and I’ll investigate how it’s done. is.”
Q: “But by dropping the Daniel Kinahan name, you kind of legitimize this combat sports figure.”
A: “No. For me, it’s a simple thing, a friend outside the room. I meet him for advice and he has helped me throughout my career.”
Q: “At a press conference in Dublin on Tuesday, police said: ‘For a message, anyone in combat sports who continues to work with him is involved in a criminal network—'”
A: “I don’t follow that kind of news. I focus on sports, I focus on my family, I focus and entertain people and that’s the most important thing.”
UFC President Dana White, who was not at the event on Saturday, declined to comment on the situation when contacted by Yahoo Sports.
Who is Daniel Kinahan?
US Treasury officials told reporters on Monday they believe Kinahan ran the day-to-day operations of the Kinahan Cartel, which is believed to have emerged in Dublin in the 1990s and has since grown into one of the largest criminal groups organized in the world, with interests primarily in drug trafficking and money laundering. Since 2016, the alleged cartel has been at war with a rival gang in Dublin and Spain, which has reportedly left 18 people dead.
This is the same Kinahan who had become a major figure in the world of boxing and mixed martial arts, making millions of dollars in transactions and leading several major fights in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, near the base of cartel operations.
Much of that activity has to do with running boxing MTK Global, a company he founded and is accused of still having a connection. He filed a sworn statement in court last month claiming no longer a relationship with the company, but an official filed a complaint alleging, among other things, that he founded the company to launder money from his drug dealing.
Lazzez is listed among MTK’s MMA fighters on their website.
Other notable names on MTK’s list are boxers like WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, undisputed welterweight champion Josh Taylor and WBO women’s middleweight champion Savannah Marshall. Top Rank president Bob Arum told Yahoo Sports that his promotion company paid Kinahan more than $4 million in consulting fees for fights involving Fury.