The Leblanc/Kajic/BFL situation: Who is to blame?

One of the most anticipated fights of the beginning of 2020 in Canada was the BFL 65 main event opposing Julien Leblanc to Dejan Kajic. This title fight was planned for last Saturday, February 8, but an unfortunate series of events forced the fight to be cancelled the night before the weigh ins, leaving the three parties angry at each other. Here is my analysis of the Leblanc/Kajic/BFL situation where I try to find out who is to blame?

Everything began on Thursday night, Julien Leblanc made his way to the Ottawa airport where he needed to take a flight to Toronto, from where he would fly to Vancouver. While waiting for his flight, a huge snow storm started to hit the whole province of Quebec and Eastern Ontario. Leblanc’s flight was therefore delayed for 3 hours. At that moment, Leblanc had already missed his corresponding flight to Vancouver but he still decided that he would make his way to Toronto to catch the next flight heading West. At around 10pm, passengers were called to board the plane but it never took off. More than an hour later, West Jet employees announced to the passengers that all the flights from Ottawa were postponed until the next morning due to the weather conditions. Moments later, passengers learn that even the flights from the next morning where postponed since the snow storm was not going to stop until late Friday morning.

There were now two options left for Leblanc: One was to wait for the storm to be over, get a new flight and fly to Vancouver on Friday afternoon. However, Julien believed he would not be able to make the 175lbs contracted weight if he chose that option. He had already started to cut weight and he couldn’t “stay dehydrated for 36 hours without eating and drinking water and still think he would be able to fight well the next day.” He still could try his best to get there and cut the weight. The other option was to ask Dejan Kajic and the BFL promotion for a catchweight fight at 185lbs. Julien said that he already weighed in at that weight and believed Dejan was close to it too. They could just stop cutting weight and meet at that weight instead. Of course, that would cancel the title fight but that was the last thing on Julien’s mind at that point, he was only worried about saving the fight. The catchweight offer was declined, even after a telephone conversation with Dejan himself.

Julien still did not want to quit and not show up. He found himself a flight with another airline for the next morning. He however had to pay the 900$ fees himself. He then contacted the promotion who told him that they would not pay for the ticket and that he needed to weigh in at 175 in order to fight. He accepted, but when the promotion called his opponent, he told them that he tought the fight had already been cancelled and that he had started eating and drinking water, making him unable to make weight. Once again, Julien asked for a catchweight at whatever weight Dejan was at that point, but it was too late. The fight was therefore cancelled and Julien never even left Ottawa.

He later posted a video on his Facebook account to share is misadventure and express his discontent towards the promotion:

He explains that when he received his plane tickets a month prior, he immediately told the promotion that it was very risky to make him land in Vancouver at 1am on the day of the weigh ins because of the weather in Quebec in February. He also told them that being the last flight of the day was a big gamble because if it was to be cancelled, he would have to wait until the next day and would not be able to make it in time for the weigh ins. This distrust of plane companies and travel schedules was due to Julien’s failed attempt to make it to Korea along with his coach to corner Marc-André Barriault in his last UFC fight. Can you guess what happened back then to make Julien miss his corresponding flight from Ottawa to Toronto? Yeah, a snow storm, we in Quebec bruh!

Speaking of Barriault, he was supposed to be on the same flight as Julien last Saturday along with Jade Masson-Wong who was fighting on the same card. They however opted to purchase their own plane tickets and they payed for their extra nights at the hotel when they saw that the original plan was to fly in on Thursday night. It’s not the less costly option, but we know now it was the better one.

Unfortunately, it was impossible for Battlefield Fight League to change the planned date of the flights and make Julien arrive earlier. Leblanc believes that did they it “to prevent him from being able to cut weight efficiently” therefore “giving an unfair advantage to their hometown guy and champion.” The Quebecer also said that the promotion did nothing to help him solve his flight issues and that they weren’t even responding to his and his manager’s text messages.

When BFL announced that the fight was cancelled, they clearly put the blame on Julien and they even accused him of never actually being able to make the weight. The event took place as planned on Saturday night. Just as the dust seemed to settle on the whole situation, Dejan Kajic published his own Facebook video reacting and giving his opinion on the whole situation.

By listening to both fighter’s videos, we can see quickly enough that there is a huge difference in the perception of what made the fight fall appart between both of them. Kajic expressed his disappointment and even said that he didn’t really know or understand why all of that took place. He still gave us his side of the story.

The beginning of the story is pretty much the same, missed flights, snow storms, etc. But it stops there as both parties seem to have a very different explanation of why the fight fell through: Leblanc is angry at the promotion for their mishandling of the flight bookings and feels like they did it on purpose to favor the local guy. Kajic and BFL believe that Julien was not going to be able to make weight and that he was looking for a deal that would favor him at the expense of Dejan.

Kajic explained in is video that the BC athletic commission has two different weigh in times, 11am and 6pm. It would then have been possible for Julien to arrive on Friday morning and cut weight for the 6pm weigh in. The fact that he was the main event of the evening also gave him more time to rehydrate before the fight, even if he weighed in late. BFL considered that Leblanc had more than enough time to make the contracted 175lbs weight.

I’m just not sure that this information made its way to Julien, because he kept thinking that there was no way he was going to be able to make the weight. According to Dejan, BFL officials even contacted the commission to see if they could extend their weigh in time for an hour or two in order for Julien to make weight. They accepted, but Leblanc didn’t.

Kajic then said that the promotion was willing to book a catchweight if Julien came in a couple of pounds heavy, but they were not willing to bump the fight up one full weight class at 185lbs. That’s what made BFL suspicious that Julien was even planning to attempt to make weight. They asked him for a video showing them his weight on Thursday night, but he wasn’t able to provide it since he was trapped in an airport without his luggage waiting for a flight that would never take off.

What made BFL and Kajic even more suspicious, is when Julien’s manager told them that he was already weighing 185lbs when he asked for the catchweight. “I don’t understand why you think you can come to somebody else’s city, fight for a promotion you never fought for before and challenge me for my belt, but not be willing to cut one pound,” said Dejan in his video. Kajic believed that as the champion, he was not obligated to accomodate his opponent and accept a fight out of his weight class.

If you listen to Kajic’s recollection of the events, BFL seemed to be very active in trying to find a solution to Julien’s weight issues and it was Leblanc and his manager that weren’t ready to make some compromises in order to save the fight. That’s why the fight was cancelled, according to the champion. Of course, Kajic is very disappointed that Leblanc folded at the first hiccup and didn’t show up and he feels like he was robbed of the opportunity to fight.

So, as you may be able to see here, the base story told by both fighters is pretty much the same but the reasons that led to the cancellation of the fight are completely different according on who you are listening to. Leblanc is blaming BFL for not having foresight regarding the flights and doing nothing to help him solve the problem that they caused. BFL blames Leblanc for not being able to make the contracted weight, asking for a catchweight at the last minute and not being willing to make any compromises in the negociation of said catchweight.

But who is to blame? To be honest, I don’t quite know! Yes, you probably can blame BFL for the flight planification. Flying a fighter in mere hours before a weigh in is too late and gives absolutely no margin for error if a problem arises. And Lord knows that Quebec weather in February tends to be a huge problem most of the time. But on the other hand, can we really blame a promoter from the Vancouver area, where it’s 10 degrees outside in the winter and where you only see snow on the top of mountains, for not being in touch with the intricacies of Quebec’s winter weather? Also, there was a lack of communication either between Julien and BFL, Julien manager’s and BFL or Julien and his manager as I’m pretty sure that he was not aware of the two weigh ins rule. Finally, letting fighters like Jade Masson-Wong pay for her own plane tickets and hotel fees just because she wants to make sure to be there in time is not cool. I understand that a local MMA promotion in Canada probably does not have an unlimited budget and can’t afford to pay for a fighter’s flight ticket twice. But still, fighters shouldn’t have to pay for their flights just to make sure to be there in time, just book them to fly in earlier and pay for one more night in the hotel. Despite all of that, I truly believe there were no bad intentions behind any of that on BFL’s part.

Can we blame Julien Leblanc a little bit too? Probably, even though I don’t agree. He could have just shut up and wait for his flights and get there whenever he got there. He could have even missed weight by a couple pounds, but at least he would have tried his best with the situation that he was given and I’m pretty sure that there would have been no drama about it. We have seen many fighters deal with these type of situations in the past and most of them make it to fight day. Do they fight their best fights ever? Usually, no. Even if they win, they don’t look that good in the process.

That’s why I understand Julien’s decision. A pro MMA fighter must think about himself above all else. Julien felt like the odds where stacked against him and he tried to find a solution, in vain. He then took the decision not to fight at these conditions, that he felt were unfair to him. He even has the right to call out the promotion, but I felt like he should not have called Dejan out saying he was scared and that he should have taken the catchweight fight if he wanted to fight that much.

In fact, Dejan did the same thing as Julien, he was selfish. He was not willing to accept a fight at 185lbs as he believed his opponent would have had an unfair advantage over him if he did so. I truly believe that the only person in this situation that does not need to accept any part of the blame is Dejan Kajic. The fact that Julien was unable to provide a video of his actual weight on Thursday night made it too risky for the champion. He spent is whole fight camp saying in interviews that he was too small to compete against 185ers, so he was not going to take the chance to see his UFC dreams crushed at 35 years old after being undefeated for two years because he took the last minute decision to fight an 85er who could very well be weighing more than 200lbs in the cage on saturday night (even if it wasn’t the case, there was no way he could know for sure). And for those saying that Julien or Dejan were scared, I find it so ridiculous that people could say such things about people who basically make a living out of fighting people inside of cages, and that make little to no money doing it.

In conclusion, my final analysis is that this is the shittiest of all shitty situations. It’s shitty for Julien Leblanc who saw another one of his fights get cancelled (it’s like his 17th time since he began fighting as a pro), it’s shitty for Dejan Kajic who needs to put a hold on his UFC dreams at an age where you don’t have the time to put shit on hold, and it’s shitty for Battlefield Fight League who still presented a nice event, just without the fight that everybody wanted to see the most.

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