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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Farah Hannoun

Ottman Azaitar says bag incident caused USADA to test him 26 times in 2021

Ottman Azaitar’s brief UFC release caused him to become one of the sport’s most drug-tested athletes in 2021.

In January 2021, Azaitar (13-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) was cut from the UFC for violating COVID-19 health and safety protocols during UFC 257 fight week ahead of his fight with Matt Frevola, which was canceled. The UFC later decided to give the unbeaten Moroccan another chance.

UFC president Dana White said Azaitar’s team got a wristband to someone outside the UFC’s COVID bubble. That person dropped off a bag on their hotel balcony. Azaitar’s manager later revealed it was potatoes in the bag, but when asked in a recent interview with MMA Underground what was inside, Azaitar said he wasn’t even involved.

“It was a really strange story, but to be honest, I was not included at all in this  whole story,” Azaitar said. “But it’s OK. I don’t blame anyone for this. It’s no one to blame for, but I was not really responsible for this – especially this thing with the bag.”

The incident caused the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to keep a close eye on Azaitar, who was tested 26 times in 2021 according to the database. He’s only been tested six times in 2022.

“This cost – that I was the second most tested UFC fighter the last year,” Azaitar said. “Also, USADA was listening to this whole trash, and then, ‘Oh, OK, this guy had something in this bag.’ I don’t know what they expect me to have in this bag. I was worried that they think there was something dangerous, but they were thinking there was some forbidden substances and that’s why I was tested approximately 27 times last year. Very weird.”

Azaitar returns for the first time since September 2020 when he faces Frevola (9-3-1 MMA, 3-3-1 UFC) on Saturday at UFC 281. It’s a rebooking of their matchup that was scrapped at UFC 257.

UFC 281 takes place Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews and early prelims on ESPN+.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 281.

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