|Venue: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas Date: Saturday, 16 December
|Coverage: Follow live text coverage on BBC Sport website & app from 04:00 GMT on Sunday, 17 December
Colby Covington’s repulsive comment about Leon Edwards’ late father being “in hell” marred the UFC 296 news conference in Las Vegas.
Covington’s remark infuriated Edwards, who threw a bottle at the American before the pair had to be separated by security.
Edwards’ father was murdered in London in 2004.
Birmingham’s Edwards, 32, is set to defend his welterweight title against Covington, 35, on Saturday.
“I’m bringing you to the seventh layer of hell,” Covington said to Edwards. “We’ll say ‘what’s up’ to your dad while we’re there.”
Covington, dressed as George Washington to reference to the American Revolution overthrowing British rule in 1776, is often brash and outlandish in the hope of garnering attention around his fights.
Edwards, usually so calm and collected in the face of his opponents, snapped, throwing a bottle which hit Covington before trying to engage with the former interim champion.
Covington continued to goad Edwards on the microphone as security prevented an altercation, before the pair returned to their seats.
“1776 baby, this is the American revolution. General Washington started it, general Covington ends it,” said Covington.
When asked later if Covington’s comments had made it personal between them, Edwards said no but warned the American to “keep the same energy when they get backstage”.
Edwards was booed by most of the audience as he walked on stage at the start, while fans cheered and stood up to film Covington as he bowed after making his entrance.
Edwards is making the second defence of his title after beating Kamaru Usman in his previous fight nine months ago, while Covington is fighting for the first time since a win over Jorge Masvidal in March 2022.
Covington, who sat back with his feet on the table while grinning for the majority of the news conference, insulted a number of fighters besides Edwards, including Tony Ferguson and Stephen Thompson who are on the undercard, and Ian Garry, who pulled out of his bout with Vicente Luque on Wednesday after contracting pneumonia.
Covington’s jibes were mostly received in good spirit by Edwards, who has said previously he doesn’t take the American’s persona seriously, until the crass remark about his father was made.
The pair then engaged in a tense stand-off after the news conference among a heavy security presence.
Ferguson sparks Pimblett into life
The undercard sees Paddy Pimblett’s return to the octagon for the first time since a narrow win over Jared Gordon one year ago, as he takes on American lightweight Tony Ferguson.
Liverpool’s Pimblett, 28, had ankle surgery in March which kept him out of action, while former interim champion Ferguson, 39, is hoping to halt a six-fight losing streak.
“It’s great to be back. Sitting on the couch for months not being able to walk, never mind not being able to train, is a killer, but we’re back now and I’ll make a statement on Saturday night,” said Pimblett.
“Tony’s very unorthodox but you’ve got to focus on yourself and that’s what I’ve done this camp – focused on myself, got myself better and that’s it.”
Pimblett was mostly booed as he walked on stage, with cheers coming from a pocket of supporters which included his team-mate and UFC strawweight Molly McCann.
The popular Ferguson was loudly cheered, with chants of “Tony, Tony” accompanying the California fighter.
Pimblett, who yawned after sitting down, looked disinterested for the majority of the news conference before being sparked into life by Ferguson.
“He has nothing to gain from this fight. In his mind he’s already lost,” said Ferguson.
Pimblett responded by calling Ferguson a “sausage”, before the pair continued to verbally joust.
“I can’t wait to bring the heat out of you, I hope the old Tony turns up, not this washed up one,” said Pimblett.
“I’ve already beat you mentally, you haven’t got a clue. Take your shades off. You tried to stare me out earlier and looked away first, I’ve already beaten you.”