Ariel Helwani: Ariel Helwani in Orlando, Florida for UFC on Fox 17 alongside Ali Abdel Aziz, the manager for Rafael dos Anjos who will be defending his lightweight title this Saturday night against Donald Cerrone. Ali, it’s good to see you. You have been in the news as of late. There is a lot to discuss with you outside of Rafael, so let’s get right to it.
Um… let’s first get to the World Series of Fighting story. You used to be their [matchmaker] and executive vice president for that promotion, but I understand you have some news regarding that, so the floor is yours. What do you want to say?
Ali Abdel Aziz: Yeah… you know… I just… um… uh… uh… It’s been a great run with World Series of Fighting and they amazing group. Everyone there I have nothing but love and respect for. Ray Sefo, Keith Evans, Carlos Silva, Kevin [Alires], you’re always gonna be family, but I have a meeting a couple weeks ago with [Nevada Athletic Commission executive director] Bob Bennett, Athletic Commission, and he’s an amazing guy. He gave me some great advice and we talked about all this year how I got into this business managing Renzo Gracie, you know. This is what I been. Our relationship with a lot of the fighters under Dominance MMA, uh, we train together, we sweat together, you know, and become family. And I realize after three years it’s just too much for me. It’s too much for me, for my family, and I have to choose one love. I have two loves — being a promoter and being a manager, but at this moment, you know… uh… me and World Series of Fighting we talked about it and, uh… we decide I think it’s better for me just to focus on Dominance MMA Management, try to grow it.
World Series of Fighting is an amazing promotion. Many, many fighters are lucky to have him around to give guys opportunities. They mean very well, and I think they’re gonna grow and grow. World Series of Fighting is gonna move on without me, with me. It’s become a big brand. It got good people behind it like Bruce Deifik — he fund this company and given a lot of opportunity, but at this moment I talked to Nevada athletic commission, and listen, all along I feel like, you know what, uh… I never hide it. I never said ‘Oh, I’m not a manager.’ I said I’m always gonna be part of Frankie Edgar’s life, part of [Fabricio] Werdum’s life, part of Renzo Gracie’s life, Rafael Natal’s life, Khabib [Nurmagomedov’s] life. This is my family also, but I realize I cannot have two love. I have to choose one love. World Series of Fighting helped me make this decision. I’m always going to be part of Carlos’ life, Keith’s life, Ray’s life, Kevin’s life, because these people I spent more time with World Series of Fighting than my own family, and they gonna be family for life.
Ariel Helwani: Did Bob Bennett of the Nevada Athletic Commission give you an ultimatum, and say, ‘Look, there’s a conflict here. You can’t do both. You have to decide’?
Ali Abdel Aziz: Actually, he didn’t. You know, technically, no, the management company is under my wife’s name, but let’s be real.I’m involved with every guy’s life and I never said, ‘Hey, I’m not [managing]. Many other people doing it. He told me I’m doing this on a very high level as a World Series of Fighting, you know, and uh… Dominance MMA Management, and even the management in my wife’s name, but at the end of the day he did not give me an ultimatum. He did not. But I know some laws gonna be get passed next year, and uh… I coulda still do both, but I think at this moment it is a conflict [of interest. Like it or not, or hide it or not, you know…
Did I like the conflict? No. I think World Series of Fighting has been there for me, and I’m gonna be there for them. And uh… and… and, you know… It’s just at this moment I just, I think I have to look out for my family, and for myself, and for my well-being. I’m more relaxed, you know. But this Friday I’ll be watching World Series of Fighting. They have an amazing card. Lance Palmer versus Captain. I’ll be tuning in watching. I’m number one World Series of Fighting Fan. And I’ll be watching on Friday night.
Ariel Helwani: So, did you leave World Series of Fighting? Did they fire you? Was it mutual?
Ali Abdel Aziz: It was mutual. We sit down in a room, and we talked about it, and you know… I think it was mutual and I think World Series of Fighting really helped me for my well-being. They said, ‘Ali, you know what? It’s a lot of stuff goin’ on’ and I have to make a decision to be happy. You see me for the last week and you say I’m smiling too much. I’m smiling so much because, I just, I feel free. I feel free, you know. If anybody in the media ask me I don’t have to go around talk about it different kind of way, you know… I have to say I’m this guy’s manager and this guy’s manager. I said I’m involved in their career because my wife and the team, they run the company, and I was involved of course with big negotiation if I have to, to meet the big bosses Dana and Lorenzo or some of those guys, or talk to Joe Silva. Of course I picked up the phone to call. I never hided it, but officially, you know… Listen, let’s be real. Dominance MMA Management, you know, is one of the biggest management company in MMA, you know.
We have a management company for seven years. We never had a guy left. We manage guy like Frankie Edgar. He’s probably gonna put a whooping on Conor McGregor next time we see him. We have Fabricio Werdum doing a rematch with Cain [Velasquez]. We have Khabib Nurmagomedov. We have Rafael dos Anjos. We have so many guys, you know. Even Dominance MMA Management ave some guys at World Series of Fighting. This is real. Dominance MMA Management have seven world champion. Dominance MMA Management have to focus on a lot of these athletes, a lot of their career. I’m always gonna be for World Series of Fighting. World Series of Fighting was my first love of MMA, you know. I always love management, but I fall in love with World Series of Fighting because it’s my baby. I was part of this thing to found it. It was Ray and the other peoples involved. That was a great team. They have an amazing team. Carlos Silva is a great CEO. Ray is an amazing guy everybody loves. Keith Evans… Kevin… And I, just honestly, I can go to their office on Monday and have a tea or coffee with those guys and talk.
And I’m still gonna help. If I see an opportunity as a sponsorship. Anything I’m always gonna go to World Series of Fighting and say, ‘Listen, I have an opportunity for you to be inside your cage, an international opportunity.’ I’m still going to bring opportunity to World Series of Fighting as Dominance MMA Management, not as WSOF executive. You know, I just uh, It’s a little bit… I’m sad a little bit to go, but I’m a lot more happier now, and I think World Series of Fighting will succeed and will be competing. I believe World Series of Fighting the number two promotion in the world. They got talent. They built it up from the ground up. And I think a lot of people think World Series of Fighting was gonna be gone, and still here. I’m telling everyone World Series of Fighting will be here for a long time.
Ariel Helwani: I would be remiss if I don’t ask you about a couple more things. A veteran journalist named Mike Russell has written a lengthy article about your alleged past. A lot of explosive things in that [story]. What can you tell us?Is this article accurate?
Ali Abdel Aziz: Listen… ah… you know… um… As everybody know, World Series of Fighting have… uh… you know… uh… This cockroach, I think he’s a manager… whatever he is I don’t even want to mention his name because you have to… you know… When a cockroach you see in the street you do two things — you step on him and crush him, or you just kick away and ignore. The way, like uh… I’m not gonna worry about anybody. I’m very proud. I can tell you this — I’m very proud of everything I did in my past. If you wanna make me look like a double o… whatever… a double o seven, whatever, listen…
Ariel Helwani: Is that true, though?
Ali Abdel Aziz: Listen… you know… maybe whatever, five percent whatever the story’s true, but listen, if people… uh… whatever I did in the past I’m proud of. I have nothing to be ashame of. I accomplished so much in my life. I come to America with $100 in my pocket. I have no help. You know. I have to sleep in a pizzeria. Everything I have I worked for. If I was a bad person you know in this management game you do not manage guys like Renzo Gracie, Frankie Edgar, Rafael dos Anjos, Fabricio Werdum — and some of these guys I’ve been working for for seven years. Dominance MMA Management never had a guy left except for one guy: Derek Brunson and after that after he come back for three years. He’s one of my best friends and you can ask any of these guys — 40- 50 guys — how I take care of them and how I look out for them. And these people really know me.
Everybody else if they wanna talk about me I really do not give a shit and I don’t give a crap. But I’m very happy and I really respect the media for not talking, because a lot of these people want to talk about negative stuff. The media focus about the positive stuff I did and I am very positive person. I’m not perfect. Everyone makes mistakes in life, but everything I did in the past I’m very proud of and I never did anything in my past not to be proud of and if I’m not proud of it I always issue apology about something I did. I just want to be clear, I never said, come out there and said I’m not a manager. I said I’m involved in these people’s life. My wife and her team run the company. I was involved on a really high level, but now I’m here. I’m, you know, I’m here in front you. I probably gonna… A lot of media gonna talk to me about stuff, and I’m gonna answer, but in a way I’m here. Dominance MMA to stay. World Series of Fighting to grow, be bigger than ever. And that’s it. I’m very happy today and I appreciate the opportunity you’re giving me to tell my story to the people.
Ariel Helwani: One last thing… Can you clear up the whole Olympic controversy for us? Were you part of the Olympic team in the 90s? There are some again who are claiming this is inaccurate. What can you tell us about your involvement with the Egyptian Olympic team?
Ali Abdel Aziz: Listen, you know you can talk to people — some of the Olympic Coaches I had Ed Liddie and all the people I lived and trained with at the [USA] Olympic Training Center.I was 132 lbs — 60 kilos, went to the Olympic Games. I should have been 60 kilos…
Ariel Helwani: Atlanta right?
Ali Abdel Aziz: Atlanta. Listen, I I have a hard time making weight. I was on the team. I failed to make weight classes… Listen, this is something I never, I’m not proud of, you know. Make it this far and not make weight at the age of 18 years old. It’s something I’m not proud of. You didn’t see me promote it. People ask me about it. I never really promoted it. I mentioned it in a couple of interviews because people ask me about it, but listen, I do not consider myself… I made the team. On paper I made the Olympic team, but I did not make weight. And this is an embarrassment for me. And if people, you know, take it anything wrong like I bragged about it, I didn’t brag about it. I never did. If somebody did, hey, I’m sorry. But this is the true story, and this is something I’m not proud of.
Ariel Helwani: Fair enough. We’ll leave it at that. Good luck on Saturday.