Khabib vs Conor : What happened?!?
Scenes of utter mayhem here in Sin City as the biggest mixed martial arts event in history ended in a mass brawl between the teams of the two headline contenders, combat sports star Conor McGregor, of Ireland, and Dagestan’s Khabib Nurmagomedov, who retained his Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight crown by submitting his rival in the fourth round.
In many ways, the contest itself became an irrelevant talking point after the fight, on an ugly night for mixed martial arts, a visceral all-action sport with combatants using a hybrid of martial arts in effective fighting.
When McGregor was submitted in the fourth round by the victorious Nurmagomedov, the champion climbed over the cage and hurled himself at the rival team, sparking a brawl by attempting to fight Dillon Danis, one of McGregor’s cornermen.
Wild scenes erupted which appeared to be a continuation of the bad blood after McGregor infamously attacked a bus carrying Nurmagomedov in Brooklyn, New York, in April.
Those months of hostility between the fighters’ camps boiled over as McGregor firstly exchanged blows with the champion’s cornerman inside the Octagon, before two other team members went for McGregor, one of them from behind, landing blows on the Irishman’s head.
Mayhem reigned for a few minutes while security personnel attempted to calm both fighters and their camps.
Arrests were made on three of Nurmagomedov’s team, although they were released less than two hours later, according to UFC chief Dana White, after McGregor had opted not to press charges.
What we witnessed were scenes of chaos, although it is not the first time there have been brawls ringside in Las Vegas. In 1997, when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear in their rematch, Tyson went on a rampage at Holyfield and his trainer, with scenes of mayhem. This was reminiscent of that night 21 years ago.
Tyson was handed a permanent suspension from boxing and his licence cancelled indefinitely, fined $3,000,000 and had to serve a period of community service. After a year and an appeal in court, the licence was returned. In fact, Tyson labelled the McGregor brawl as “crazier” than his own.
But the feud between these rival mixed martial arts camps had been simmering for months, and crossed the boundaries of religion and culture. Going into the UFC 229 event, McGregor, from Ireland, was the sport’s biggest star. Nurmagomedov, from Russia, was the unbeaten champion. McGregor earned $100 million for fighting Floyd Myweather in a boxing match 14 months ago, and when pay-per-view numbers are in for this event, could earn upwards of $30 million.
Two hours after the mass brawl erupted at the T-Mobile Arena, White explained later that three of the Russian’s team were arrested and later released.
“I’m so disappointed,” said White. “I’m one of the guys who has worked 18 years to get this sport where it is today.”
Mixed martial arts – the UFC – was banned in 36 US states in the mid-nineties and forced underground. White has been part of a small team helping the sport gain recognition in the mainstream.
“The thing was trending to be number one or two of all time on pay-per-view and this is how it ends,” he said of the fight league, whose estimated worth is $7 billion. “It’s bad for the brand, it’s bad for the sport, it’s bad for both fight camps. I don’t know how anyone can come out looking good from this.”
White said the Nevada State Commission, which sanctioned the contest, has withheld 30-year-old Nurmagomedov’s purse – $2 million – pending an investigation. McGregor was to be paid his, added White.
The Nevada State governor, who was at the contest, is likely to call for an investigation and the Nevada State Athletic Commission could suspend Nurmagomedov’s licence to fight.
White added: “Police officers were getting punched, security guys were getting punched. I actually think police and security did an incredible job. Khabib jumped over the cage like one of those Parkour guys. What are you expected to do?
“What he should have done was walk over, pick Conor up and say some great things to one of other. Whatever you think of Conor, at least respect the guy. I don’t like it and don’t want to ever be in that position again.
“It’s a great sport with great athletes and this is not how we conduct ourselves.”
This was a black eye for the sport. On a night when the most eyes in its 25-year history were watching.