A fighter has come clean amid concerns that he threw a fight in Afghanistan last Thursday.
On Feb. 11 at the Ghazi Stadium in Kabul, Afghanistan, the 11th event of Truly Grand Fighting Championship titled “Champions Fight Night” took place, with a seven-fight card that brought finishes in its last six bouts. In the main event, local Ahmed Wali Hotak took on the well-traveled Brazilian Leonardo Barbosa Paes Barreto at a 73kg (160-pound) catchweight. The two engaged in a tense stand-up affair, even though Barreto had notched all but one of his career stoppage wins by submission.
Midway through the second round, after a prolonged clinch exchange, Hotak struck his opponent with a knee to the chest, and the impact of the strike made Barreto fall back in an unusual way that instantly drew ire from the MMA community. Referee Yousuf Momand leapt in to stop the match after less than three hammerfists had landed when Barreto hit the ground, and Hotak sprinted away to climb the cage and shout. The crowd, an audience likely thrilled that its home country fighter won over an international foe, went wild. Whether as a result of pride or potentially in an act of protest, the cage was soon swarmed by dozens of people through the arena all while celebratory music played and sparklers fired off in the background.
Security tried and failed to control the looming mob that enveloped the victor’s team, who generally seemed elated that Hotak had gotten his hand raised. Hotak had been away for almost three years when suffering injuries as a result of a failed kidnapping, where he had been stabbed. According to Twitter user SmokinUFC, Hotak had been informed that should he win, he would be in consideration for a future UFC bout. Upon victory, Hotak sat atop the cage for over four minutes, and even was handed a microphone for an interview while draped with multiple flags. Barreto was a complete afterthought at that point.
Days later, Barreto posted his side of the story on his Facebook -- h/t to Twitter’s caposa -- after repeated accusations that he had thrown the fight or “flopped” to give up and award the win to his opponent. His statement, initially written in Portuguese, documented his tale of traveling to Afghanistan for the match.
Upon arriving to the arena in Kabul, Barreto was allegedly approached by an armed “fan” who shouted at him while showing his firearm to the Brazilian. Barreto went out to compete that night, and after the end of the first round, the same gun-toting person along with a pair of security guards allegedly started screaming at Barreto again outside of the cage. It is unclear from Barreto’s statement what the men were actually saying; Barreto admitted that he did not understand the language that was directed towards him, but was in fear for his well-being.
As a result, Barreto claimed out of fear for his life in a “different culture,” he opted to intentionally lose. According to the Brazilian, TGFC promised him that he could face Hotak again outside of Afghanistan in order to “preserve [his] life.”
His full, translated statement reads as follows:
”Note of clarification
“I come here to disclose facts that occurred in my last fight that is not something that sport preaches, when arriving in Afghanistan I was very well received by the organization of the event and also by the Afghan people, everything was fine until the moment I arrived at the gym where it happened. [At] the event, when in the locker room, a “fan” [arrived] and said something I didn't understand and showed me that he was armed, until then [I thought] it's okay because it's common for the people to carry guns there. When the fight started, this same fan was with two security guards. [They] came closer and wouldn't stop shouting the same things he told me in the locker room, or something like that, always with a lot of anger. It went back to being aggressive at the [end] of the first round into the second round. I was in a different culture and felt really scared at that moment. My main goal was to preserve my life and not wait to see what the anger of that fan was able to do. The fact is that this fan decided the fight. I don't blame the promoters or the Afghan people for that, this was an isolated case. To preserve my safety, [the organizer] understood my point and promised me the rematch outside Afghanistan [in a neutral country]. I'm waiting for the contract to finally be able to face my opponent and make the fight be decided between who is the best fighter that day. I'm really sorry to have disappointed my supporters, and I promise next time it will be different. Thanks for all the messages of support.”
TGFC has not responded for comment at this time.