After watching Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury shove each other as they were doing a staredown Wednesday prior to a news conference at the MGM Grand Garden, Bob Bennett of the Nevada Athletic Commission decided Thursday to prevent the heavyweights from posing for the traditional face-off photo following Friday’s weigh-in.
Wilder, the 42-0-1 WBC champion, will meet Fury, the 29-0-1 lineal champion, in a Fox/ESPN pay-per-view on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The networks arranged a different sort of news conference on Wednesday, in which play-by-play man Joe Tessitore would interview the two on stage. Each was introduced and walked to the center of the stage, where they went nose-to-nose, after a short while, they started jawing at each other. Eventually, each shoved the other with a two-handed push to the chest.
Bennett, the commission’s executive director, left the news conference before the fighters got on stage, so he wasn’t aware of it until Wednesday evening when he watched a replay on television. He decided to not allow them to square off following the weigh-in, that is custom. The face-off is used to build last-minute interest in the bout.
Asked if he thought the shoves were staged, Bennett was emphatic that he felt that they were not.
“I don’t think it was calculated because if I did, we’d be having a different conversation now,” Bennett told Yahoo Sports.
Bennett said he thought the pressure may have been getting to the fighters and led to the shoves. He conceded that the incident following UFC 229 between lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and former champion Conor McGregor played into his mind. Nurmagomedov leaped over the cage after the bout to go after a McGregor cornerman and a melee broke out.
Bennett said that he had spoken to Nurmagomedov manager Ali Abdelaziz and McGregor manager Audie Attar before the fight, as well as UFC officials, about preventing something, even after it ended. He said after watching what happened at the news conference between Wilder and Fury, it would not have been wise on his part to allow them to come together.
“They’ve had a litany of press conferences and face-offs and they’ve been all over the place,” Bennett said. “Do they really need it? Is it going to make any difference? I know this, someone can say it’s costing money by not allowing it, but if one of them gets hurt in another incident, what is the cost then? They stand to lose a lot. All it takes is for someone to fall funny when they’re pushed and they twist an ankle and they can’t fight. No one wants that. This is probably the biggest fight of the year and so I decided in the best interests of the health and safety of the fighters not to allow [a face-off at the weigh-in].”
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