You reap what you sow — Galatians 6:7
Last night, the much-anticipated grudge match of Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov took place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. The brash Irishman returned to the octagon for the first time in almost two years, an absence that saw him fight Floyd Mayweather in a boxing contest that drew an estimated 4.4 million buys on pay-per-view, ranking as the second best-selling event in history behind only the Pacquiao-Mayweather event.
As I wrote before UFC 229, I picked Khabib to get the victory because his status as a two-time Sambo champion gave him the skill set to defeat Conor, whose three previous career losses were via submission. Nurmagomedov used his ground game to control the majority of the first three rounds, with McGregor only showing brief flurries of offense at various points in the bout. As the contest went into the championship rounds, Khabib secured a modified choke, forcing his opponent to tap out.
After referee Herb Dean halted the match-up and declared Nurmagomedov the winner, the Russian grappler began yelling toward the opposite corner and jumped over the fence, throwing punches at McGregor’s jiu-jitsu coach, Dillon Danis. During that confrontation, a total brawl started outside the cage while security struggled to maintain order. At the same time, members of Khabib’s team jumped over the cage and punched an unaware McGregor, adding to the complete chaos of the live broadcast.
The real Khabib fight with the best camera man (me) in the arena !!! pic.twitter.com/RgdLchn5cC
— Chris K (@chrisk8oh) October 7, 2018
Post-fight, Conor was ushered from the octagon as an irate crowd expressed their discontent with Nurmagomedov. The Russian champion insisted that he should get the UFC Lightweight championship presented to him during the announcement of the winner of the bout, but UFC president, Dana White refused, citing safety concerns from the crowd.
Khabib was escorted backstage as security huddled around him, avoiding objects being thrown from the audience. Surprisingly, the 155 lbs champion attended the post-fight press conference and made a short statement, including an apology to the Nevada State Athletic Commission for the incident. But, the damage is done because instead of Khabib’s dominate win against the top star in the organization, the narrative for UFC 229 is the unprofessional brawl that took place after the main event. At what will be the most watched UFC pay-per-view of the year, the story will be anything but the sport itself.
Here’s video of Conor McGregor being escorted out of the arena by police and security. pic.twitter.com/F7ig6MADka
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) October 7, 2018
However, make no mistake about it, the UFC allowed for this situation to be possible because of the way it handled previous incidents. When Conor McGregor was arrested after he threw a dolly through a bus window, injuring fighters that were scheduled for that weekend’s card, I wrote that he doesn’t deserve a spot in the UFC, but that he would probably compete again. Conor was originally charged with a felon and there were civil lawsuits against him for the injuries caused. McGregor’s legal team got the charges reduced to disorderly conduct, and the UFC did nothing to reprimand him for his actions. The top star in the company injured mid-card fighters that don’t draw the major money he does so management wasn’t going to release the golden goose.
It’s a harsh reality, but cash is the top priority for the WME group, and McGregor sells pay-per-views. If there were no consequences for the main event star that illegally injured others then why would management expect any different from another main eventer?
Khabib apologizes to Nevada, UFC, Dana White and talks about Putin calling him. He also says his dad is going to not be very happy with him when he returns home. pic.twitter.com/NYiE7RZhMJ
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) October 7, 2018
In fact, UFC brass exploited McGregor’s illegal attacks when they used footage of the bus incident to promote the UFC 229 event. You reap what you sow.
When Conor got a free pass for bus attack and more recently, when Jon Jones somehow only received a 15-month retroactive suspension for a second failed PED test, the UFC sent a message that if you draw enough money, you can get away with things that would get others fired.
As mentioned, I penned an article where I said that Conor shouldn’t have a spot in the UFC after the bus incident, and I will say this now, Khabib should be fired for his actions after the main event at UFC 229. Just as with the Conor incident earlier this year, don’t expect Nurmagomedov to be released because one way or another, there’s now more money to be made from him. Management isn’t going to leave that money on the table.
As of this writing, the Nevada State Athletic Commission has yet to determine any fines or suspensions for Nurmagomedov, but his check for the bout is being withheld until the commission makes a decision. Conor was paid because it was determined that he didn’t cause the brawl. That being said, it can’t be understated how much of a negative impact this ridiculous post-fight chaos could have on the sport. The Fertitta’s and an entire generation of fighters invested years to prove that mixed martial arts was about competition, not a blood sport.
What Nurmagomedov did when he jumped the fence and attacked members of McGregor’s team wasn’t mixed martial arts, it was assault. The same can be said for when Conor attacked the bus, that wasn’t fight hype, it was assault, which is why he was arrested. If Khabib faces any charges from the incident remains to be seen, but Conor refused to press charges so three members of Nurmagomedov’s team were released after initially being detained.
The bottom line is, the next few months will be a pivotal point for the UFC in terms of the perception of mixed martial arts. The company is still low on star power, the Jon Jones situation looks like an example of corporate corruption, and the UFC will have to present quality fights for its launch on ESPN next year. Khabib not only ruined the championship win, but considering that he was relatively unknown to the general public prior to this near-riot, he will be known as the fighter involved in the fights outside of the cage after a pay-per-view. There’s no excuse for Nurmagomedov’s actions, but the UFC should send a message before these ridiculous antics from a variety of fighters ruin the sport.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta
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