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Alessio Di Chirico had picked up perhaps the biggest win of his mixed martial arts career and saved his job in the process. The emotions were visibly overwhelming.
As Di Chirico (13-5 MMA, 4-5 UFC) sat crouched over in the cage, his UFC on ABC 1 opponent, Joaquin Buckley, was helped to his feet, informed what had happened, and placed on a stool.
Di Chirico wasn’t supposed to win that fight. A sizeable underdog, Di Chirico had cranked Buckley with a taste of his own medicine – a head kick – before finishing the fight. The win snapped a three-fight losing streak for the Italian.
When Di Chirico walked to the back for the post-fight news conference, however, he surprised reporters by declining to take any further questions.
“It was a nice fight, but guys, I’m sorry,” Di Chirico said after MMA Junkie’s John Morgan asked the first question. “I’m sorry, but I promised myself I would not do this interview. I don’t like that you only interview the winner in this game. This sport is made by two people always, a winner and a loser. So I don’t like this. I appreciate your job, but I want to send this message. Thank you, guys.”
Having had time to reflect on the decision to exit the post-fight news conference without answering questions, Di Chirico has a slightly different perspective and wants to clarify his stance. As a fighter who was on a skid, Di Chirico hoped he would shed some light on a perceived culture of “What have you done for me lately?” in MMA reporting.
“I’d like to make things clear,” Di Chirico told MMA Junkie in Italian during a recent interview through a translator. “There was no disrespect at all towards you and your colleagues’ work. I hope there’s no misunderstanding about that. I think, I firmly believe this sport is the best sport in the world because every fighter puts something special into his journey. Every camp is something very near to the definition of hell. You feel the pressure for your team, your family, your fans. Sometimes you fight at your best and you still lose. Sometimes the judges think you lost the fight, but maybe you were the winner, (and) it’s like the world falls over your head.
“So I think it would be fair to put some lights to the guys who lose their fights, as well – if they are in good health, obviously. That’s it. I didn’t mean you should interview a knocked-out guy from his stretcher. I’m sorry if my English sometimes is not 100 percent clear. I’m training on that, too. … It’s not a crusade for me. I was emotional. I’m a sportsman. I deeply respect every guy who’s sharing the octagon with me. I know the pain they go through because I’ve been in that (expletive) more than once.”
Viewers and reporters weren’t the only ones surprised by Di Chirico’s decision. Following the event, UFC president Dana White weighed in on Di Chirico’s walk-off – as well as a separate encounter he had with the fighter backstage.
“I just found out that that kid was mad,” White told reporters. “Did you guys talk to him? What the…? I just heard that. That’s the craziest (expletive) I’ve ever heard. I saw him in the back. I walked by him and his team and said, ‘Hey, congratulations.’ They looked at me like, ‘(What) the (expletive) you want?’ Seriously, they literally looked at me like I lost. I looked at Brian, and I said, ‘Man, that’s an unhappy crew.’ Apparently they didn’t know they won.”
Perhaps most of all, Di Chirico feels bad about the encounter with his boss. It was all a misunderstanding, according to Di Chirico, who has since apologized to White.
“Man, what a shame. I’m so sorry he could have thought like this,” Di Chirico said. “I don’t think there could have been someone happier than me and my team all over the world at that moment – total misunderstanding. I was drained. It was the end of a three-fight losing streak. I had to handle so much pressure, so I probably couldn’t smile. But believe me, I barely remember what happened just after the fight. It’s OK right now. I apologized to Dana and Mick (Maynard) through my manager. I was the happiest guy in Abu Dhabi, believe me.”