Vettori charges at Adesanya, pulled from presser

Sports

PHOENIX — UFC title challenger Marvin Vettori was physically removed from a news conference Thursday after a near altercation with his opponent, middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.

At the tail end of a prefight news conference, after nearly a half-hour of the two sparring verbally, Vettori got up to confront Adesanya twice with UFC president Dana White holding him back and security intervening. Vettori was removed from the stage by security as White wrapped up the news conference at the Arizona Federal Theatre.

Adesanya will defend his title against Vettori in the main event of UFC 263 on Saturday night in Glendale, Arizona. The two have fought before. Adesanya beat Vettori by split decision on April 14, 2018 — in Glendale, Arizona, coincidentally. It was one of the toughest fights of Adesanya’s run to the 185-pound title, and the two have harbored bad blood since then. Vettori believes he was the true winner.

During the news conference, Adesanya and Vettori went back and forth repeatedly, trading expletives and trash talk. The boisterous crowd in attendance was very pro-Adesanya and booed Vettori lustily as soon as he picked up the microphone.

At the tail end of the festivities, Adesanya told Vettori, “I run your career,” and prompted him to fight now. Vettori exclaimed, “I’m your f—ing nightmare.”

Vettori got up and turned toward Adesanya, but he was pushed back by White. A security official came from behind and grabbed Vettori around his torso. Vettori relaxed momentarily, but then screamed and knocked his own sunglasses away while Adesanya continued his verbal barrage.

“Fight me now, b—-,” Adesanya said. “What are you gonna do? Try it again. Try me again. Look at him. You know what that’s called? That’s called roid rage.”

Adesanya then threw something small at Vettori when Vettori sat back down, though it was unclear what it was. Vettori then grabbed a water bottle on the dais and attempted to go back at Adesanya, but he was pulled away by security.

Adesanya (20-1) has been the UFC middleweight champion since October 2019. The Nigerian-born New Zealand native is coming off a loss in a light heavyweight title fight to Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259 in March. Adesanya, 31, is considered one of the UFC’s biggest rising stars.

Vettori (17-4-1) is the hottest fighter in the middleweight division. The Italy native, who fights out of Orange County, California, has won five straight. Vettori, 27, is coming off a unanimous decision win over Kevin Holland in April.

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