Coach Eric Nicksick revealed that Sean Strickland was very close to being pulled from UFC 293 days before his middleweight title tilt with Israel Adesanya.
‘Tarzan’ shocked the world on September 9, scoring a decisive unanimous decision victory over ‘The Last Stylebender’ to capture his first world title. But as it turns out, Strickland’s often divisive antics nearly got him booted from the bout courtesy of the Australian government.
Appearing on a recent episode of Straight Outta the Lair with Flex Lewis, Nicksick revealed that an interesting interaction with an unruly fan nearly landed Strickland in some hot water.
“We almost got pulled from the fight [during] fight week,” Nicksick revealed. “This idiot punches a dude in his belly. Like, a fan runs up to him talking sh*t and Sean Strickland goes full Sean Strickland on him. The guy was like, ‘Izzy’s gonna knock you out,’ but the guy wanted a picture and Sean kinda had his arm around him so Sean gives him one to the ribs. Didn’t hurt the guy or nothing, but you don’t want to be insinuating any violence at all at any capacity during fight week when you’re barely allowed in the country.
“Australia had him held up for two hours when we landed in customs so we’re walking on eggshells before we even land. Hopefully, we can make it into the country and then this idiot goes and love-taps some guy. No one knows about it. No one says a word. No video. No nothing so we’re good. What does Sean do? He incriminates himself during the press conference talking about the fans. ‘The fans have been wonderful. Everything’s been great. Except for one a**hole and I punched him in his belly.'”
Nicksick Claims That UFC’s VP of Talent Relations, Mick Maynard, Fought to Keep Sean Strickland on the Card
Those comments prompted officials with the Australian government to contact the UFC, narrowly forcing the promotion to pull Sean Strickland from the matchup and inject top-five-ranked contender Jared Cannonier who was already in the country as the main event’s official backup. Fortunately, Cannonier’s services were not needed as one man successfully lobbied to keep Strickland on the card.
“The Australian government or whoever was listening hears this and they go to the UFC,” Nicksick said. “They were pissed. I’m dead serious. They were going to pull him. I’m not even joking. They already had Jared Cannonier there. He’s are replacement. He’s our backup for Izzy or Sean and he had to make weight. So this is where I was like, ‘Oh sh*t dude, this is real life.’ I’m good friends with John Crouch from MMA Lab. Very good friends with this guy and I catch wind that the UFC is booking coach Crouch’s flight from Arizona to Australia on three days notice.
“What is that, 10 grand? That’s not cheap and that’s a 15-16 hour flight. So to me, that was very serious. There was a good chance we’re going to lose this fight if we don’t get our sh*t together. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes. I talked to Mick [Maynard] a little bit about it. Mick pulled for us from my understanding. There was a lot of politicking back and forth.”
Strickland drops Adesanya!!pic.twitter.com/JzuaNBTx5R
— MMA Mania (@mmamania) September 10, 2023
Needless to say, UFC officials were nervous when Strickland invited yet another fan on stage to engage in an open sparring session during the pre-fight press event. Luckily, Strickland minded his P’s and Q’s, and the publicity stunt went off without a hitch.
“And then Sean goes and does the open workout and brings the guy on stage,” Nicksick continued. “Dots him up a little bit, but dude, he is the epitome of a sitcom. Every episode starts with what predicament Sean can get himself into. Like, what kind of pickle can Strickland get himself out of this time? It’s just another episode of Sean Strickland’s life and low and behold, he navigates himself through the week. Not only does that, but he goes and beats arguably the best middleweight to ever do it.”
Sean Strickland has already shown an interest in defending his title at UFC 296 in December, but no official word has been given regarding who could potentially challenge ‘Tarzan’ for the middleweight world title. Currently, Strickland is enjoying some R&R after being forced to take a vacation following his big win in The Land Down Under.
Watch the full interview below: