The UFC has elected not to release Ottman Azaitar after all following a bizarre set of circumstances involving the undefeated lightweight last month on Fight Island.
UFC president Dana White told ESPN he has decided to give Azaitar a "second chance" in the promotion. This development comes less than one month after White told multiple outlets the Moroccon-German fighter would be released from his contract for breaking COVID-19 protocols in Abu Dhabi.
"Surround yourself with great people. I'm always grateful to everyone who was involved in this situation. The Bulldozer is back," Azaitar wrote later Saturday on Instagram.
Azaitar (13-0) was scheduled to face Matt Frevola at UFC 257 on Jan. 23, but the UFC canceled the fight the day before after White revealed Azaitar had come into contact with an individual outside the UFC's bubble in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.
According to White, security witnessed the unauthorized guest sneak his way into the hotel and make his way to Azaitar's room. The UFC removed Azaitar from the premises immediately. Azaitar has not commented publicly on the incident. Neither side has offered further details of the incident.
Azaitar's manager Ali Abdelaziz told ESPN the entire situation was a "misunderstanding," and thanked White and the UFC for keeping Azaitar on the roster. He was never officially removed from the UFC's roster or its year-round drug testing program, per Abdelaziz.
Azaitar, 31, signed with the UFC in 2019 and has been electric inside the Octagon. He is 2-0 in the UFC, with two first-round knockouts. There is no current time frame on his next matchup.